Colorist Inspiration – Jean-Clément Soret
Color grading is full of amazingly talented people who consistently push the boundaries of what is possible in a grading suite and produce stunning images. I thought it’s time to pay tribute to these talented colorists by taking a look at some of their best work . Their work inspires me to be the best I can be and hopefully it will inspire you too.
The first person that comes to mind when I think of the worlds best colorist has to be Jean-Clément Soret. He’s the Global Creative Director of Colour Grading at MPC London. Jean-Clément is literally the most influential post production in London and has been for many many years. He has graded top commercial after top commercial and has graded beautiful feature films for Danny Boyle such as Sunshine, 127 Hours and Trance.
Televisual a UK based industry magazine runs an annual “The UK’s Best Colorist” poll annually and Jean-Clément has been named number 1 colorist every year since the poll began 5 years ago. He also gets voted number 1 VFX artist in London every year. I think it’s safe to say he’s one of the most successful colorists in the world but as he keeps a low profile many of you may not have heard of him.
This year has been a particularly great year for Jean-Clément as he received a British Arrows Gold Fellowship Award (think life time achievement award) for his grading work in the world of advertising. He was presented the award by the amazing director Danny Boyle. Jean-Clément has graded all of Danny’s feature films since the days of 21 days later.
If you’d like to read more from and about Jean-Clément please check out the articles and information below :
Jean-Clément is in a wonderful position that I’d love to achieve myself of being able to grade both Feature Films and Commercials and be hugely in demand in both fields! In this insight I’m going to be focusing on his recent commercial work and if you’re interested I can do a follow up based on his feature work.
I’ve selected the following jobs from his huge range of work as I find them inspiring. I find his work has no heavy or easy to replicate looks or one button presets to emulate it. He simply gets the most out of every single pixel on his jobs and has an amazing eye for detail. Hopefully you find them as inspiring as I do!
Meet The Super Humans
This commercial was realised just before the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. The emotion of this commercial is to show all the hard work these athletes have been through. They have worked so hard to get to the olympic games and this is their time to shine.
The look has a positive vibe but has elements of grittiness and low saturation to help emphasise this is real life and the time they put in is very real. The key to this look for me is the super clean and white highlights and the crispy contrast.
Uk and London based commercials usually have a slight bleach bypass or desaturation to help keep it feeling “reel” life in the UK isn’t often that sunny or warm so this low saturation high contrast look is what people relate to most. Even though the commercial has a slight bleach bypass / desaturated look it still has a great filmic roll off in the highlights and shadows.
Stunning and powerful imagery and a great grade.
John Lewis – The Long Wait
This is my favorite commercial grade from Jean-Clément. It has some amazing texture and depth and the color balance between scenes helps tell the passing of time while keeping every scene looking stunning. If I could have picked any commercial to grade it would have to be this one.
The commercial opens on a beautiful winters day with flat lighting as the sun rises behind the house. The skin tone is perfectly balanced and he’s added some beautiful warmth and tints to the shadows in the family scenes and then cooler and desaturated in the waiting scenes.
The contrast in this commercial plays a huge part in the look. It can be emulated by using contrast curves but the 35mm acquisition format played a huge part in the look thanks to the grain and shadow behaviour.
Three – The Pony
In a break from the world of serious commercials this commercial featuring a dancing pony has a subtle but beautiful grade. The teal vibes of the sea to the beautiful oranges, pinks and yellows in the sky create this magical time of day.The commercial feels full of color but without feeling over saturated.
You can feel the warmth in the grade but white highlights and controlled shadow tone help keep it feeling extremely clean while maintaining that magic hour feel. The soft contrast helps create a dreamy perfect cliffside location. With hazy low contrast shots to provide scale as we look in towards the cliffs from the sea and then higher contrast in the foreground in the close ups to lead our eye to the pony.
I love the choice of going just dark and silhouetted for the day for night instead of the traditional adding blue. Great fun grade extremely well executed.
British Airways – Aviators
This commercial takes us on a journey through time. Starting full of browns and low saturated scenes with a hint of purple in the shadows we then jump forward in time to beautiful greys and low saturation. By the time we hit the 1960’s we have a beautiful technicolor vibe with beautiful sky blues and reds.
As we hit modern times the midtones drop heavily and we get a great modern look at the world.
This is a dream job for a colorist where you need to research the era’s you are replicating. They key is getting the feelings across but keep it subtle!
John Lewis – The Journey
Another beautiful commercial for John Lewis, this time a snowman is on an epic journey to get a gift for his lady friend
The attention to detail in this ad is mind blowing. Every single highlight is soft and beautiful with a lovely roll off. The day for night is stunning with complimentary matte painting that adds a romantic nights sky. When our snowman sets off on his journey the cold color temperature of the barren landscapes with lots of yellow highlights creates a beautiful mix of tones.
Once we arrive in the city everything takes a warmer, urban sodium lighting feel and of course the store has the beautiful warm welcoming tones you expect.
Jean-Clément has created this wonderful mix of soft contrast with lovely printed film shadows. Anyone that has graded snow before knows how hard this would have been to grade so this simply blows my mind.
I think Jean-Clément has earned his place in the colorist hall of fame. He’s consistently ahead of the trend and creating looks that have been copied all around the world many times over. I find that no matter how extreme his looks are they are never “over graded” or pushed to hard. The skintone always looks amazing and the color balance and contrast adds a new level of depth and emotion to the production.
His creative flare and experience will continue to inspire me in the world of color correction. I can only hope that someday my clients will love my work as much as they do his today!
I’d love to continue this series on the best of the worlds colorists to inspire myself and others so if you do have any suggestions please do let me know!