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In Whiplash (2014) at the beginning of the hazing scene around 15:48 there is a frame with a close up of an object on the floor that looked like a fly to me at first. However it does not move and I can not figure what it is or what it means.

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High zoom with some slight Photoshop cleanup…

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    I added a cleaned up zoom - still can't tell, but it looks like fluff. No clue what it signifies, if anything.
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 4, 2022 at 18:57
  • Looks like a dead fly or spider
    – HorusKol
    Oct 4, 2022 at 22:42
  • It is framed remarkably central.. VTLO.
    – Joachim
    Oct 5, 2022 at 4:18
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    @Joachim - in fact it's high & left. It doesn't sit in quadrant, rule of thirds, golden ratio or golden spiral. It does nicely balance the floor joint, but only in a non-theoretical way. It just "looks nice to me" & blows much compositional theory out of the water ;)) It's mainly an exercise in negative space, if anything.
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 5, 2022 at 17:11
  • @Tetsujin Are both the screengrab in the question and the gif in your answer cropped? Or are you talking about a subtle high & left? If the former is the case, my argument doesn't really stand, and I believe this should be closed as trivia (in a very literal way) after all. If the latter ..I'm really not sure :)
    – Joachim
    Oct 5, 2022 at 17:15

2 Answers 2

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Having just watched the scene, I don't think it really means anything. It's part of the 'here comes everybody' setup. The shot is really 'feet walking past'. Equally there are shots of sheet music, sometimes with someone pointing at it. There's a row of empty chairs which trumpet cases are then put onto.

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The fluff might have been accidental, or it gave a fixed point to a moving shot. There's also a well-placed off-centre diagonal joint in the flooring - it's a nice shot, but I think it's just 'nicely-framed imagery'. I think we just have a cherry-picked frame of a continuing set of establishing shots.

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To bring some comments into the answer… You can "quantify" a shot & there are many compositional theories from way back in the days of renaissance paintings to 'define' how a composition is placed.
This kind of breaks them all. I see it as a really good framing, but it refuses to conform to any of the pre-conceived theoretical 'best practices'.
It doesn't sit in S-curve, quadrant, rule of thirds, golden ratio or golden spiral. It does nicely balance the floor joint, but only in a non-theoretical way. It just "looks nice to me" & blows much compositional theory out of the water, There's an organic balance against the light reflections on the floor, but even those are 'unbalanced' according to the theories. The whole shot is an exercise in negative space, if anything. The 'interest' is passing, not static.

The trouble with theories or rules in art, of course, is that some people always follow them, some people break them by accident & some people break them on purpose… and often you'll never know what the intent actually was.

Sometimes a shot just works. Sometimes things get over-analysed.
Sometimes no matter how much you study something, you just can't get it how you wanted… with apologies to Monty Python
enter image description here
which, if you ignore the dammit & extra hands, nicely sits in golden ratio, just like the classics always usually sometimes occasionally did.

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I would have to disagree with everyone saying it isn’t intentional or part of the shot because the short film Whiplash (2013) has the exact same object framed the exact same way in the exact same shot. Has to be purposeful, whatever its purpose may be.

screenshot

YouTube video of the short film (relevant part starts at 1:27):

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    As the movie came after, can't it be a "tribute" to the short?
    – OldPadawan
    May 20, 2023 at 13:56
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    Interesting observation - though having tracked down the short… it's the exact same shot. The colour grading is different, but other than that, it's the same piece of footage. That, of course, still doesn't tell us whether the bit of fluff is truly intentional, it just says the director liked the shot so much he included it in the full-length movie, in the equivalent scene. The light reflections on the floor are far more logical in this version, as it's set in a room with windows; but just seeing it as part of the establishing setup in the full movie you wouldn't really notice that.
    – Tetsujin
    May 22, 2023 at 11:20
  • I left a couple of frames in at the end to give more of a hint that this clip is from the short - i.stack.imgur.com/YV8Ne.gif
    – Tetsujin
    May 22, 2023 at 11:21
  • @OldPadawan - the short is the same director. It's essentially just the scene referred in the question from the full movie, but an earlier/different version. It was apparently made to get into Sundance to generate interest [read: finance] for the full version. J K Simmons plays Fletcher in both. Some of the band members too.
    – Tetsujin
    May 22, 2023 at 12:53
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    I agree with @JoshuaCruz. The (fly?) is intentional. It's meant to hold the viewer's gaze at center to have him take the scene in peripherally. May 23, 2023 at 12:58

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