Filming & Post production
With a $30–45 million production budget, filming began on 12 November 2010 in Cape Town and took approximately 13 weeks, with second unit photography occurring over seven weeks. Filming locations included Johannesburg and Cape Town Film Studios (Dredd was the first project filmed at the studio). The project involved a majority of Cape Town crew members and about 40 imported crew. The producers chose to film in South Africa because of the lowered cost of employing cast and crew compared to locations in Europe and North America, and government incentives that offered to rebate up to 25% of the production costs. The film was shot digitally and primarily in 3D using RED MX, SI2K and Phantom Flex high-speed cameras for the Slo-Mo sequences, producing 4,000 frames per second. Multiple camera rigs were used. Some 2D elements were converted to 3D in post-production.
DNA Films’ co-founder Andrew Macdonald engaged cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle to manage the shoot; it was the first time Mantle had worked with 3D. The filmmakers wanted Dredd to have a realistic, visceral look, and drew inspiration from crime and gangster films. For scenes conveying the time and space altering effects of Slo-Mo, Mantle aimed to create images that would be beautiful but disorienting.
Mega-City One and its high rise towers were created in Cape Town Film Studios. Finding a suitable set for the expansive Peach Trees atrium proved difficult, and the producers did not want to build an expensive set. While observing scouting photos of Cape Town, the filmmakers noticed a large three-walled external space that looked like an interior when filmed at night. A key sequence involving Ma-Ma and her gang firing rotary cannons across the atrium in their attempt to kill Judge Dredd required ten days of filming and eight different sets inside and outside the studio which were blended together with visual effects. Visual effects supervisor Jon Thum was unable to accompany a helicopter flight to obtain planned aerial shots of Johannesburg due to last-minute flight permissions; the resulting shots were non-specific and Thum had to pick out ones that could tell the story. Mantle had to develop new rigs to obtain close-up shots. Describing the aesthetic he aimed to achieve, he said: “I hope it will be more painterly. If we get it right, it will be a cross between Blade Runner and Clockwork Orange.” Garland was a constant presence on the shoot; Urban turned to Garland for direction instead of Travis.
The filmmakers experimented with the visuals of Mega-City One, including the design and positioning of the city’s tower blocks, to create the impression that the city had risen out of the remains of another. They found that replicating the comic visuals of blocks close together made the blocks appear small. Instead they allowed more space between the buildings to emphasis the larger buildings and allow for the presence of roads and cars to allow for extrapolation outside of the picture. Outcrops and appendages were added to break up the buildings’ straight lines. On 7 October 2011, the Los Angeles Times reported that Travis was prohibited from participating in the editing process following creative disagreements between producers and executives. Garland took over the editing process; his contribution was considered significant enough for him to seek a co-director credit—a situation considered unusual as Garland had never directed a film before and had not been in charge of any filming. The disagreement concerned a disapproval over the footage that Travis was providing. Although Travis was removed from the editing process, he was monitoring the progress of the film. On 10 October, Travis and Garland released a joint statement saying that they had agreed on an “unorthodox collaboration” before production began, that Travis was still involved in the film and that Garland was not seeking a co-director credit. In March 2018, Urban said that he believed Dredd should be considered Garland’s directorial debut.