Production took place from October 1964 to October 1967. Filming began in April 1965 primarily on a set dubbed "Tativille", where 100 construction workers built two buildings using 11,700 square feet of glass, 38,700 square feet of plastic, 31,500 square feet of timber, and 486,000 square feet of concrete.
One reason for the film's commercial failure may have been Jacques Tati's insistence that the film be limited to those theatres equipped with 70 mm projectors and stereophonic sound (he refused to provide a 35 mm version for smaller theatres). For another, audiences worldwide had come to love Tati's films for the character of M. Hulot; his reduction to an intermittent, occasionally supporting role in the new Tati film came as a disappointment to many (Tati himself lampooned the phenomenon in an early scene when a rain-coated pedestrian whose back is turned to the audience is mistakenly hailed as Hulot). Others disliked its nearly plotless story line, while those who only saw a single showing frequently missed the intricate, sometimes simultaneous comic sight gags performed in the various group scenes. A final reason for the film's poor reception may have been its release date; while the film's satire of modern life may have been cutting-edge when first conceptualized in 1959, by the end of 1967 such themes were old-hat to film audiences.
To save money, some of the building façades and the interior of the Orly set were actually giant photographs. (The photographs also had the advantage of not reflecting the camera or lights.) The Paris landmarks Barbara sees reflected in the glass door are also photographs.
Jacques Tati detested close-ups, considering them crude, and shot in medium-format 70 mm film so that all the actors and their physical movements would be visible, even when they were in the far background of a group scene. He used sound rather than visual cues to direct the audience's attention; with the large image size, sound could be both high and low in the image as well as left and right.
Except for a single flower stall, there are no genuine green plants or trees on the set, though dull plastic plants adorn the outer balconies of some buildings, including the restaurant (the one location shot apart from the road to the airport). Thus, when the character of Barbara arrives at the Royal Garden restaurant in an emerald green dress seen as 'dated' by the other whispering female patrons clothed in dark attire, she visually contrasts not only with the other diners, but also with the entire physical environment of the film.
Predominant colours are in shades of grey, blue, black, and greyish white. Green and red are used as occasional accent colours: for example, the greenish hue of patrons lit by a neon sign in a sterile and modern lunch counter, or the flashing red light on an office intercom.
As Playtime depended greatly on visual comedy and sound effects, Jacques Tati chose to shoot the film on the high-resolution 70 mm film format, together with a complicated (for its day) stereophonic soundtrack.
Though M. Hulot's part within 'PlayTime' is somewhat diminished, Jacques Tati does appear in the background as four other (very minor) characters across the film. Firstly, he portrays a policeman who is directing traffic (just prior to Barbara's attempts to photograph the florist), the central workman installing a window (just prior to Hulot finally catching up with Giffard), a workman scratching his back at the Royal Garden (just as the restaurant's first guests arrive), and as a different workman on stage (complaining to the orchestra whilst holding electrical cables).
Most untypically, Jacques Tati hired several professional actors for supporting roles in the film, including Bill Kearns, John Abbey and Reinhardt Kolldehoff. However, the majority of the actors were non-professionals, as usual.