How I work: Colourist Jean-Clément Soret

Colourist Jean-Clemént Soret has worked his magic on everything from Black Mirror and 28 Days Later, to the John Lewis Christmas ads. Here he explains why working with colour is like “tuning an instrument”

Jean-Clément Soret has been working with colour for the past 30 years, starting out in a video processing lab and now colour grading films for directors including Danny Boyle, Lynne Ramsay and Ron Howard. He’s seen, firsthand, the way his role has developed from purely technical to a key part of the creative process – the final touch that extracts the “full potential” of the film. CR spoke with Soret about why grading is like music, and how his job relies more on instinct than anything else.

How he ended up working with colour I always wanted to work in sound or image. I come from a family of musicians – not professional, but everyone plays music – and I guess my parents talked to me about art and painting and photography. It’s always been something I wanted to do, and I studied audio visual technology hoping to become a sound engineer or cameraman. The first job I got was in a processing lab where they were doing video transfer – transferring film to tape. At that time it was mostly technical, tand here was not much artistic input. But the job moved on very quickly, because of technology improving. It became a very creative job, so I’ve moved on with the craft and the business. At the beginning it was a big machine that required a lot of engineers around, and it was all hardware, and now it’s the total opposite. A small piece of hardware, lots of software, and just your eyes, your instinct, and your flare and that’s it really.