The Truman Show’s Paradox: How VFX Helped Create a Hyper-Realistic World While Staying Undetectable

Although it was made over 15 years ago, The Truman Show is a lo-fi sci-fi made at the cusp of the VFX revolution that has never ceased to be relevant. The exact same story could still be told today, and very little would probably change visually.

In the featurette below, dedicated to the VFX of the film, we discover what was the mindset and constrains of the VFX team lead by Craig Barron and Michael McAlister. What makes lo-fi sci-fi interesting, is that the story usually takes place in our current world, but something is off. And that ‘off’ element is something that needs to be conveyed by the visuals, VFX included. If it’s too obvious, then the ‘magic’ is broken, if it’s too subtle, then the viewers might not enter the world.

For The Truman Show, one of the parameter the VFX had to take into account was the Truman’s world was a hyper-reality. So they had to create vfx that wouldn’t be noticed to enhance the ‘set’ Truman involves in, and find the right balance to make it just enough believable and yet, slightly off:

“The concept was that the Truman character would be in this synthetic created world, and there would be an Art Directed world, it wouldn’t be completely realistic, it would be as if it was designed, and that idea had to come across in the visuals that we created for the film. So it was very challenging for us to achieve that, because on one hand we are all trying to make our work look undetectable, as an illusion, and on the other hand the story wanted us to make something that looked a little bit heightened, a little stylized. Craig Barron – Visual Effects Supervisor

Visual Effect Supervisor Michael McAlister develops on what Hyper-Real meant in The Truman Show: “Hyper-real in terms of the Truman Show would mean things like too much fill light. The color palette being too beautiful, too pastel, too perfect. The color of ocean off the coast being that strange blue that only happens at sunrise and sunset in that little town. It would mean that, when we had a wide shot looking at the sea, we would arbitrarily chopped off the last five miles of horizon so it would looked like the sea was only a mile away.

Watch the full featurette below for more details on the process working on the Truman Show, there are some very creative and interesting details to discover: