Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle is an alternative history story in which the Axis powers were victorious in WWII, with the U.S. now being split into Japanese and Nazi states. In order to realize the look of this alternate world in 1962, a number of environmental augmentations and enhancements were required to represent new streetscapes, development and even vehicles. These effects were delivered by Zoic Studios.
The show faced various issues, from the normal range of period dramas being filmed in the modern age, to imagining the design decisions that would have happened if the US had no post-war boom, and a mix of German and Japanese technology dominated everything from car design to urban planning. A small example is the classic ‘tail-fins’ on 1950/1960s American cars. The tailfin era of automobile styling would just never have happened. Yet this was a huge industrial design influence and statement of jet age optimism that spread worldwide, as foreign car makers picked up styling trends from the US automobile industry. Neither could the 3D cars that were created be just Eastern Block cars of say East German. These are Soviet influenced and don’t reflect a victorious Third Reich.
Still adding to the demands on the visual effect team was that this version of America is divided and also under Japanese influence. Especially early in the series there is a lot of action that takes place in a Japanese San Francisco. From set extensions to traditional green screen effects work, the effects designers at Zoic in LA and Canada produced a chilling view of an alternative and confronting view of what might have happened had the defeated German command actually perfected an Atomic bomb mid WWII, and bombed Washington.
Thanks to our media partners at WIRED, here’s an exclusive look behind the scenes of Zoic’s visual effects for High Castle.