March 28, 2015 · movie ·

how fast does miles teller play in whiplash?

EDIT 05 Sep. 2015: The concept of Beat Per Minutes (BPM) has been mis-understood as mentioned by reddit. What I was supposed to write was Strokes Per Minutes (SPM).

Released in 2014, Whiplash focuses on a promising young drummer (Miles Teller) pursuing his dream of greatness. This greatness will only be achieved with the help of a ruthless teacher (J. K. Simmons) that will push him to his limits. It is obviously a common plot for a movie but I strongly recommend to watch Whiplash.

I am unfortunately not a musician, nor an enlightened enthusiast, so what strikes me the most is the strong ability of Miles Teller to play quite fast. I do enjoy the overall portraying of the jazz education and the sadistic teacher/student relationship but at the end of the movie, I just needed to know if the performance of the actor in term of quickness was impressive. That is why I consider analyzing the audio from the first and the last scenes of Whiplash to extract how fast does Miles Teller play and compare it with the actual World's Fastest Drummer.

The metric used is the Beat Per Minutes (BPM) which, in the case of the drum, simplified to how many times the drummer hits his instrument per minutes. This BPM is estimated by the detection of a short transient peaks in the audio signal then the difference of time between two consecutive peaks allows the computation of the instantaneous BPM. The two following figures shows the basic idea and problem behind the detection of these short peaks (beat) in an audio signal. The red dots represents a detection and the numbers between two consecutive dots are the instantaneous BPM. The first figure is an example of clear identifiable beats with an slightly increasing BPM (311 - 323 - 336 - 361 - ...). However the the second example exhibits the problem that arises when beats are pretty closed to each others leading to the end of a beat signal interfering with the beginning of the next one. So it makes the estimation of the instantaneous BPM harder and thus more noisy.

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Now let's see how the Miles performs in the first see of the movie. The x-axis is the number of the beats. For the first scene, around ~200 beats were detected video (from 0:00 to ~0:33). For those who haven't seen the movie, in the first scene Miles starts playing and slowly accelerates the rhythm. The acceleration is clear on the graph, he starts with less that 100 beats per minutes and ends with ~900 beats per minutes.


The BPM of the final scene has also been studied (from 2:36 to 3:56 of the embedded video). On this scene, the algorithm probably missed few drum beats as even if Miles Teller is at his higher beat rate (end of the graph) some instantaneous BPM appears to be around 450 quite precisely half of what the other points concentrate at that moment (between 800 and 1000). I like how the evolution of the instantaneous BPM draws a V shape, with a regular decrease then an as regular increase. So to answer the title-question "how fast does miles teller play in whiplash?", I will answer with 900 BPM (±25).


Truly fast in my opinion. But let's compared it with the actual world's fastest drummer. I confront the beat detection algorithm to the known world record of 1208 beat in one minute video of the record. The algorithm detects 1211 beats instead of 1208 ! The instantaneous BPM of this record is of interest as we see that the drummer varies between 1000 and 1700 over the whole one minute of the drum session. We might account this variation to both the algorithm and the drummer himself. However, he seems incredibly constant even if a linear regression tells us that he starts with a instantaneous BPM of 1282 (±26) and finishes with 1193 (±26).


And finally, let's look at the BPM of the challenge given by the World's Fastest Drummer to Miles Teller. He seems to rise up to 1100 BPM.
EDIT: The video has been deleted by Tom Grosset here is the reddit thread to prove it once existed.

But as Miles said “Why would you challenge a guy who played in some garage bands in Florida and has a fun time doing it? I don’t go for speed. It’s not a sprint for the Miles man.”


The code and the waveforms are available here!

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