We start with style because it was the origin of the video we hope you’ve just seen. (above)
When we saw wedding videographer Sharrone Calafiore’s video portfolio at her website, we were so taken with her style that we offered her an assignment to create a video for us using the Z 9 and the NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.2 S lens.
The thing is, Sharrone didn’t shoot with our system, but we really wanted to see how our camera and lens would work with her style, and considering her experience and expertise, we also wanted to know what she would think of the performance of our gear.
We’ll get to that in a moment. First, a little about the style that caught our attention.
For us, the first clue to Sharrone’s approach to wedding videography was that her company is called Fiore Films, and what we saw in her videos was a cinematic storyteller’s skill and sensitivity. She moves as unobtrusively as possible through the wedding day, capturing natural and ceremonial moments in a picture-perfect location among guests selected to be participants and witnesses. Later, her skillfully edited story places viewers of the video in the role of observers who see and hear just enough to be quickly caught up in the drama—and all this happens in videos lasting about a minute, or three, or five, all of it brilliantly done under the constant pressure of knowing it’s happening on a day in which there can be no retakes, no second chances and very little directing of actions or events.
“I know there are videographers who do amazing work when they direct, but we tend to do our best when we are not directing,” Sharrone says. “We” consists of Sharrone and either one or two other videographers, depending on the size of the wedding, and what they do best is best done inconspicuously. Which means they’ve created an ultimate challenge for themselves. “We love to creep, to just be the fly on the wall,” she says, “but the problem is, our style is also very much ‘the perfect look’—posed properly, lit properly.” So how do you realize a casual, “Oh, we just happened to be in the right place at the right moment” look and still achieve perfection? “That’s where balance comes in,” Sharrone says. “Be there, but unless it’s a vital shot that everyone expects to be captured perfectly, don’t be the center of anyone’s attention.” That balance is what makes her style so effective…and so notable.
I loved that f/1.2 lens. It grabbed focus faster and made a huge difference in bokeh backgrounds.
The Faster Glass
Okay, so how did our gear fit with Sharrone’s style when she shot our video? In a word: seamlessly. And with some significant advantages.
“An 85mm is my favorite focal length on the job,” Sharrone says, “and I know what to expect and what to rely on—and I loved that f/1.2 Z lens.”
For the shoot she relied mostly on her preference for manual focusing and used the Z 9’s focus peaking feature for real-time confirmation. She found that our 85mm f/1.2 lens “grabbed focus faster” than her system’s f/1.2, and it “made a huge difference in bokeh backgrounds. At f/2.2, I loved the round shape of the bokeh in pinpoint-lighting situations.” Overall she found the NIKKOR Z lens “fast, sharp and impressive.”
“Unreal in low light” was Sharrone’s assessment of the Z 9’s Eye AF. “There was a sequence that was practically in the dark, and I was a good distance away, and when the Nikon tech at the shoot saw how Eye AF caught the model’s face, even he was blown away.”
The quality of the Z 9 file also drew praise. “I am not a technical person,” Sharrone says. “I judge only by seeing the results to know whether something performs, and when I edited with the Z 9 file it was as smooth as silk in its depth and detail. There were no issues—it was a beautiful image.”
The Substance of Style
Fiore Films offers clients three video choices: the Short runs about a minute; the Highlight about three; the Signature about five. These videos’ alluring style and their social media communication power are responsible for their popularity with her clients, and most likely for the fact that over 90 percent of Sharrone’s bookings come from word-of-mouth recommendations.
Her wedding videos are a matter of production by sensibility: they have to feel right to her. “I don’t go in with a master plan, aside from whatever notes the couple has given us, or maybe locations at the venue. But as far as the edit, nothing is storyboarded or super planned. I go through the footage carefully. I listen to it, and then I cut it to shots and moments I like, and I’ll put the cuts in folders—like Bride’s Cuts; Establishing Shots; Hair, Makeup; Nice Moments. That might not be as efficient as some editors, but it’s the way I work—with possibilities.”
At that point she lays down the music, and Sharrone is a storyteller with a passion for music and a distinct way of applying it. Rather than selecting specific visual moments and then finding music that fits them, she starts with the music. “I’ll find music that complements the couple’s day,” she says. “The day determines the vibe; the music determines the flow.” She’ll select specific parts of the music and choose visuals that go with them. She describes it as an obvious and natural selection process. “It comes from a feeling you get from a part of a song, and what it’s communicating. There’s sort of an understanding, so that when you put a certain visual to that music—I’m not talking about the obvious cliché crescendo, but to small moments, maybe the bride looks at the groom—the music sets off a feeling for the viewer. It’s a nuance, it has to be subtle, but it’s intentional on my part, and it’s based only on what I feel works.”
If style is ultimately the manner in which you express what you feel, it’s likely we were caught up by Sharrone’s style not only because it’s polished and professional, but also deeply felt.