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Green Day's "American Idiot" Reunites Leon and Bayer

Teams Syndicate Colorist Beau Leon and Black Dog director Sam Bayer (August 30, 2004)

Punk band Green Day captures the confusion of American pop culture in a politically-repressive climate with their high-powered new music video "American Idiot," which reunited director Sam Bayer, Black Dog Studios, and The Syndicate lead colorist Beau Leon, who performed the film-to-tape transfer and color correction.

"I worked with Sam on his early, groundbreaking videos like Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit,'" Leon recalls. "'American Idiot,' the first cut from Green Day's new Warner Bros. album, was our first time together in the telecine bay in years. It reminded me of the old days, working crazy hours, adrenaline pumping away, but all worth it in the end."

The project also re-united Bayer and Leon with Tim Royce, now a London-based director, who edited the video. "Tim is also back from the '90s," says Leon. "It was a real reunion and a lot of fun watching Sam's incredible footage and Tim's amazing edit."

Bayer shot 60,000 feet of 35mm film in a two-day, six-camera shoot at a former LA-area aluminum factory in which Green Day performs "American Idiot" against the backdrop of two huge American flags, painted green, white and black. One stylized flag, whose stripes continue onto the floor, appears in shots where individual band members perform among retro cameras and monitors. An even larger flag, reminiscent of the famous monologue scene in "Patton," hangs behind the band as they perform. About halfway through the video the flag's green stripes begin to wash off and green paint puddles appear on the floor. Then floods of green paint pour from the speakers, showering the trio as they finish the song.

"I want the video to look organic and filmic, different from other videos out there," said Bayer in an MTV "Making Of 'American Idiot'" show. "I want it to almost feel accidental so I'm shooting from every conceivable angle to make it as live as possible. I told Green Day I'd like the video to look as good in 10 years as it does now."

For Leon, one challenge was "pumping up the grain to keep everything pretty contrasty" especially in the big factory sequences where huge skylights flooded the set with natural light, but changed during the course of the day making the performances shot from a low angle "contrasty and interesting." Leon also needed to enhance the greens of the key flag-effects shots.

Leon manned a Spirit Datacine with da Vinci 2K color correction in a marathon 43-hour session with both Bayer and Royce. "We put up many, many rolls of film before we were satisfied with the look," Leon reports. "So much was about accenting the green in the flag and the floods of green water and making sure the color was right from every angle. When the green water was rushing onto the band members, it was difficult to expose so I let it play a little dark consistently throughout the sequence. I also used Windows to knock down the corners a bit and make sure you can see the colors of the flag slowly washing off." The flag's green stripes were tempera paint mixed with dishwashing soap; three 850-gallon dump tanks washed water down the flag erasing the stripes and flooding green water out of banks of speakers and from beneath the flag.

About The Syndicate
The Syndicate (1207 Fourth Street, Santa Monica, CA), (, a division of the ComputerCafe Group (Santa Maria, CA), is a 25-person VFX and telecine studio specializing in all aspects of final picture delivery, compositing and CGI for commercials and music videos. The company combines CaféFX's award-winning CGI and VFX studio with The Syndicate's three veteran partners: telecine artist Beau Leon, LA; executive producer Ken Solomon; and director of new business Leslie Sorrentino.


Project Type: Green Day music video Project Title: "American Idiot" Release/Air Date: 8/18/04

Production Company/Studio: Black Dog Studios Director: Sam Bayer Editor: Tim Royce

Telecine Facility: The Syndicate Executive Producer: Kenny Solomon Film-to-Tape Transfer: The Syndicate Colorist: Beau Leon Compositing: Method

Label: Warner Bros.


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Related Keywords:Green Day, American Idiot, Syndicate, Colorist, Beau Leon, Sam Bayer, Black Dog Studios, telecine, Tim Royce, Spirit, Datacine, da Vinci 2K, ComputerCafe Group,


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