Garland began writing Dredd in 2006 during post-production of his other writing credit Sunshine, and completed his first draft while serving as an executive producer during filming of 28 Weeks Later. Garland's draft revolved around one of Dredd’s main enemies, the un-dead Judge Death. He described the story as a "riff on the whole Judge system", but that it did not work because the Judge system had not yet been established and required too much knowledge about the Judge Dredd comic from the audience. He also considered the end result too surreal and extreme. From this script, Garland decided that the story needed to be more focused and grounded. He instead considered adapting some of the notable Judge Dredd storylines, including "Democracy" (1986) and "Origins" (2006).
With a $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 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. Multiple camera rigs were used. Some 2D elements were converted to 3D in post-production.
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 emphasise 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 claiming 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.