Stronghold Animation - How it was made

Hi Guys,

We have been getting a lot of questions about the Stronghold Animation]( so we thought we would share the answers with everyone.

This was done by two CG Artists (see attached photo) at AutomationDirect, plus myself and one other adivsor.

The entire project took three months:

Mid Sept – Game Concept revealed to AutomationDirect
Mid Oct – Script Complete
End Oct – Animatic complete (Took 7 rev’s)

  •      CAD files start arriving
  •      CG team starts modeling assets.

Nov - Creating/building Assets

  •      Begin Animating

Dec - Received final CAD Files

  •      Continue Creating/Building Assets
  •      Animating
  •      Lighting
  •      Textures

Mid Dec – Delivered full animation WITHOUT rendering.

  •      Started rendering scenes. 

The team worked through Christmas (literally) and delivered the final animation 12/27.

The seamless transition between the real field flyover and the animated version was accomplished by modeling the camera used to do the fly over of the real field to get the exact same view and then employed motion tracking to track the motion of the live camera during the transition. Worked out pretty well, eh?

Entire animation was done in Blender, with post done in Adobe After Effects.

Render Time: about 2000 hours.

Render Farm: 7 PC’s most of which have 64 core processors and high end graphics cards for GPU rendering.

** - - - - - - Fun Fact - - - - -**

The lead CG Artist got his start doing the original FIRST Robotics Autodesk Animation Award.

I’m gonna get in trouble for doing this, but here are his first two attempts at “animating:”

2005 Safety Animation 2006 Autodesk Animation Award

That was 10 years ago. Compare that to this year’s Stronghold Animation. He’s come a long way since then. Got a huge scholarship to go to the Savanna College of Art and Design (SCAD) – mostly due to his portfolio of FIRST Animations – graduated and came to work at AutomationDirect. His partner in crime also went to SCAD and specialized in Lighting – which explains the beautiful look of the Stronghold video. Both are considered CG generalists and create videos and other digital media items promoting AutomationDirect’s products. Here’s a few examples: How to Buy a PLC, Big PLC Job, DIY Christmas, Robotics. Cool job …

All of which explains why AutomationDirect is excited to sponsor the “Dave Lavery Animation Award**.” These opportunities FIRST and FIRST Communities provide have repercussions way beyond just building robots.

Of course, you guys know that …

Let us know if you have any other questions!

  • Rick

** Note that this is not currently an official FIRST award, rather it is posted in the FIRST community sponsored awards section of the FIRST website. Let us know if you have any questions.

p.s. I would be remiss if I didn’t remind everyone to use their 2016 KOP Voucher to buy whatever they want at AutomationDirect. There’s around 20,000 different parts in stock here, so check it out. I’ll bet we have SOMETHING you need.

Wow did not realize you guys used Blender as of right now I am self-teaching myself the program. I don’t believe it is too user friendly but trying my hand at it on the side. In those 2000 hours I am assuming that was done total over the 7 pc’s or is that on 1 pc?? :eek:

Yes blender does have a steep learning curve, but once you are over it it is an exceptional tool.

Yes, the 2000 hrs of rendering was “CPU hours” it was spread across the 7 pcs so it took about three weeks of elapsed time.

Each frame took about 10-15 minutes to render.

Rendering Trick: **We actually rendered it at a low resolution which makes the video look noisy/grainy, but then applied a smoothing filter to remove the noise and create the clear video you see. That saved a LOT of render time …

Ok appreciate the answers haha. Any tips or tricks with blender would greatly be appreciated if you have any pointers for a new person. My email is

I can imagine and cringe the time it would take if you would of just rendered at high def from the start.

Hi! Chris here - I worked on the game animation this year.

If you’re getting started with blender, there’s no better place than right here - these videos go over navigating the interface and the basic tools:

Once you’ve gotten the hang of the interface, Andrew Price has some fantastic tutorials on every possible subject here:

Hope this helps!

Wow! It is very cool knowing how the animation was created. Very good work

Was hoping they’d find a way to bring Dozer back.

Making videos on my FIRST teams was what I did as a student. Not animations for awards but mostly things like reveals and chairman’s videos. It was also my first real start, its cool to see that this one student was able to get a major scholarship at a Art and Design school.

Thank you for including him in your post as a major help to the animation process, making videos in FIRST regardless if its a animation or a film is a lengthy task and he can use all the credit he can get! :smiley: