Project Overview

As part of Carnegie Mellon University's "Interaction and Expression Using Pausch Bridge Lighting" course, I worked on an interdisciplinary team of 5 students from across different years and departments to design, implement, and showcase a 15-minute lighting show on the Pausch Bridge on Carnegie Mellon University's campus in only 6 weeks. Inspired by the film Inside Out, our show takes viewers on an emotional journey as they experience the story of 5 different emotions come to life on the bridge: Joy, Fear, Disgust, Anger, and Sadness. Our show was programmed entirely in Pharos Designer 2. After a highly successful showcase at the class's final presentations, our show was welcomed into the normal bridge rotation and now plays regularly at night. 

I personally performed the following tasks for the project:

Synopsis: In the beginning, the audience is introduced to each emotion and we see white light, a combination of all of the colors of light, as all of the emotions come together. However, something is wrong. There is a glitch with the white light on the bridge and the emotions are not working together as expected. After this, we see individual segments for each emotion, highlighting the colors and personalities of each: Joy, Fear, Disgust, Anger, and Sadness. In the end, the white light appears again, but this time it stays and the emotions are able to come together successfully. It is only after celebrating each emotion and appreciating the crucial roles that each plays throughout the show that they can all work together as a team. The show concludes with fireworks, bursts of color, and ultimately a strong, stable white light.

The Pausch Bridge

The Randy Pausch Memorial Bridge at Carnegie Mellon University memorializes Randy Pausch's commitment to bridging the gap between the gap between the arts and computer sciences by linking the Purnell Center for the Arts and the Gates and Hillman Centers for Computer Science. The bridge is 220-feet long and features more than 7,000 programmable LED lights divided into 114 discrete lighting fixtures.

The southern side of the bridge with the programmable lighting fixtures

The northern side of the bridge which has glass and white pedestrian lights (no programmable lighting fixtures)

Bridge deck facing Purnell Center for the Arts

Bridge deck facing Gates and Hillman Centers for Computer Science

Concept Design

Our team was quite free to design almost any theme for our project that we wished. We just had a few given notes to keep in mind when designing:

After receiving these notes, our team was free to begin brainstorming. This was my first project ever in lighting design, so I thought it would be helpful to meet with some more experienced designers from around Carnegie Mellon University to get their advice on concept design before settling on an idea. On my own, I initiated 5 different meetings and spoke with Ruth Comley (experience designer), Ralph Vituccio (Visual Story professor), John Dessler (Visual Story professor), Cindy Limauro (lighting designer), and Garth Zeglin (lighting design programmer). These meetings were very beneficial in helping me to consider different perspectives of design as well as notes of different limitations and opportunities to keep in mind along the way. Here are some of the most helpful notes that I received:

Our team then sat together and brainstormed over 30 concepts total (I contributed over 20 of these concepts), discussed each idea, and then narrowed down to our top 3 choices: Inside Out, Love and Family/Circle of Life, and Holi. We presented these 3 ideas in front of our entire class and 2 professors and got their thoughts. In the end, we decided on Inside Out for several reasons. One of our earliest classes focused on the power of lighting to evoke different emotions in the audience. Therefore, creating a show that featured 5 distinct emotions felt like a great fit and a great exploration into this power of light. Additionally, Inside Out provided a great structure for our show. The film provided a great inspiration for telling a full story in only 15 minutes complete with a beginning, characters, conflict, resolution, and finale. Further, by splitting the show up into an introduction, 5 different character segments, and a finale, our show would be dynamic with many shorter sections, always keeping the audience engaged. Designing our show with these shorter segments also allowed us to design for the audience member who is not necessarily sitting to watch the whole show, but rather just walking across the bridge for a minute. By splitting the show into shorter 1-2 minute segments, these particular audience members still have the opportunity to enjoy a meaningful chunk of one section of the show even just when quickly walking by. We also had a 5 person team, so having a show about 5 emotions was a great fit and allowed each member of the team to focus primarily on one emotion. Finally, it was an idea that we were all excited and passionate about as we all loved the film!

I was in charge of developing the introduction, Joy, and finale segments.

Background Research

I have my own LED strip with several built in functions and effects, so before we were able to test on the bridge itself, I used this resource. I went through each possible effect to research the types of lighting effects that might be possible for our team to incorporate into our show. I took note of the particularly interesting effects and how they might be used in our show and shared video documentation of each effect with my team to help inspire their ideation as well.

Video documentation of the different lighting effects as tested on my LED strip

Mood Boards and Storyboards

Our team then created mood boards, storyboards, and more detailed plans for each segment of the show.  Below are my first drafts of plans for the introduction, Joy segment, and finale.


Inside Out




or like this image:

We presented all of our mood boards, storyboards, and more detailed plans to the entire class and our 2 professors for feedback.

Testing on the Bridge

Our team chose to create our show in Pharos Designer 2. I was able to load the template for the Pausch Bridge in Pharos Designer 2 and quickly begin prototyping and testing on the bridge.

Template for the Pausch Bridge in Pharos Designer 2

I was one of two bridge system operators on my team. Using a special VPN and website, I was able to connect directly to the bridge, upload files, and test on the bridge. 

Uploading files to the bridge using the VPN and website. I was then able to trigger my test shows to play on the bridge from this page on the website.

Pharos Designer 2 already had many built in functions available, so I began exploring those functions and creating video documentation of each function as it appears on the bridge. I shared this video documentation with my team and with the rest of the class. This video documentation proved to be very valuable throughout the process as we could use them to reference how the different effects would look on the bridge as we developed our show in Pharos Designer 2.

Video documentation of all available Pharos Designer 2 built in features and how they appear on the bridge

Pharos Designer 2 has a simulation feature. However, in testing on the bridge, I quickly noted that things would often look very different on the bridge than they looked on a computer. Most noticeably, things felt a lot faster on the bridge than they appeared on the computer, so I had to take that into account when designing in Pharos Designer 2. Ultimately, it was much easier to test and iterate on the physical bridge than relying on the inaccurate simulations. Therefore, I did almost all of my development for the project physically at the bridge, testing regularly as I worked.

I also faced a lot of my major challenges for this project at this stage. Uploading files and testing on the bridge had a lot of technical difficulties. One testing challenge is that the bridge is very long, so it's hard to get a good perspective and be able to physically see the entire bridge at once. The best perspective was down in the valley outside underneath the bridge. However, the wifi was very shaky anywhere outside and I was not able to connect from this location until the very last week of the class. I had to do most of my testing from inside to get the most stable connection, but it meant that I did not have a full view of what I was testing. I regularly checked in with my instructors about this issue and tried to resolve it, but we were not able to until the final week of the course. Therefore, I just had to make the best of the situation and find the best views from inside that I could.

Early Prototyping

I quickly began prototyping with different colors and effects on the bridge.

The bridge is capable of displaying 16.7 million possible colors. An important design decision for us was choosing the right colors for each emotion as we would use those colors extensively throughout the show to represent the emotion. One challenge was that colors appear different on the bridge than in Pharos Designer 2. Therefore, it was important to first test different colors on the bridge and be sure to select colors that clearly read as the different emotions on the bridge. It was also important to choose colors that worked well together on the bridge for a cohesive and pleasant aesthetic design. I tested on the bridge and chose appropriate colors for each emotion and relayed the RGB codes to my team for them to use in designing.


Fear RGB

Disgust RGB

Anger RGB

Sadness RGB

Then I started prototyping different effects for Joy. I wanted to focus on just using one color, yellow, for the Joy segment to establish a signature look for Joy. Therefore, the rest of the personality for this segment needed to come from the motion and effects.

This was the first prototype for Joy on Pharos Designer 2:

Joy Test 1 Pharos

The vision was that this would be at the beginning of the Joy segment. After introducing all of the emotions and fading to white, yellow would move faster and faster from the center until Joy exploded across the bridge! 

This was the first test of this segment on the bridge:

Joy Test 1 Bridge

This effect felt too fast and unclear, so I iterated and continued testing on the bridge. After this, I came up with this second test of different effects for Joy: 

Joy Test 2 Bridge

The goal of this test was to show Joy's personality clearly. This test featured fast, excited motion and joy spreading all around until it filled up the whole bridge.

Technical Proposal

Our team created a technical proposal for how we planned to develop our show in Pharos Designer 2. We decided to program our show using a combination of two strategies:

For the built in Pharos functions, I created a list of the specific functions that I wanted to use for the introduction, Joy, and finale segments and how I wanted to customize them to fit my goals and needs. I then presented our technical proposal with initial prototypes my team in front of the entire class and 2 professors.

Proof of Concept

I edited this video together as a proof of concept for our show, showcasing three of the main story points: introduction, Joy, and Sadness. I programmed the Introduction and Joy segments and the Sadness segment was programmed by my teammate. 

Description of the Proof of Concept video: In the introduction, we begin the show with white, a combination of all of the colors of all of the emotions. Then we have individual introductions to each color/emotion and see all of the emotions interacting and moving around together. However, then, there is a glitch and there is a problem with the white light. Something is wrong. In the joy section, we see lots of bright yellow. The effects demonstrate joy exploding across the bridge, the sparkling, glimmer, and movement of Joy's personality, and joy spreading across the bridge in all directions. Then, we have the Sadness section (done by another teammate).

Proof of Concept

Proof of concept video with introduction, Joy, and Sadness

I also prepared a proof of concept video for my Finale segment.

In the finale, some sequences are repeated from the introduction to tie everything back together. However, instead of the white lights glitching like in the introduction, the white stays lit up and there is a celebration with fireworks and all of the colors/emotions!


Proof of concept video with finale

I presented these proof of concept videos to the entire class and 2 professors for feedback. I received valuable feedback for the parts that I was working on. The professors were not convinced about the current version of the glitch in the introduction, saying that it was almost too convincing of a glitch. To them, it really looked like it was a problem with the technology on the bridge and not an intentional part of the show, so they suggested to play that part up more. Additionally, with the Joy part, they suggested that it could use more energy and speed to really sell the excitement of the Joy character, which I agreed with. I iterated my lighting design according to this feedback. For the finale, they also said that the fireworks segment felt like a drop in energy so it needed to be shorter and more exciting. I agreed and implemented these changes in the final show.

Combining Files in Pharos Designer 2

After several weeks of development, iteration, and testing, our programming was complete! Our team had divided the show into segments so each person was responsible for programming one emotion. I programmed Joy as well as doing the introduction and finale. We had all been working on our own machines and saving our work into separate files, which meant that to create our final show, I needed to combine all of the files together into one. I also needed to add consistent smooth transitions between each segment. 

Combing all of the files together was a big challenge as there was no simple way to merge files. I had to copy every individual effect from each file into one master file. Additionally, I had to recreate any custom light groups that people had used in their files. This was a very time consuming process and took about a day to do. Instead of combining individual files like this, from the beginning, I had also considered us using one single team file and using careful version control. However, this also had its challenges as in this case, only one person would be able to work at a time and we would have to keep very careful track of edits on the files. It also made it less convenient to bridge test just one segment of the show during development as you would have to watch the whole show through every time. By working on different files, we could all work at the same time and test individual segments, making iterating much simpler and quicker. However, the tradeoff was that it took more time to combine everything together. In the end, either way had its pros and cons, but regardless, it came together in the end!

Final show file in Pharos Designer 2

Introduction - Final Design

These are the final videos for the introduction segment that I designed and programmed in Pharos Designer 2.

In the beginning, the audience is introduced to each emotion and we see white light, a combination of all of the colors of light, as all of the emotions come together. We also see the emotions dancing around the bridge together. However, we soon see that something is wrong. There is a glitch with the white light on the bridge and the emotions are not working together as expected.

Final introduction programming in Pharos Designer 2

Joy - Final Design

These are the final videos for the Joy segment that I designed and programmed in Pharos Designer 2. This segment included adjusting some built in effects and also individually programming parts of the bridge!

Here we are introduced to Joy! This segment features bright yellow color and high energy motion across the bridge including joy spreading out across the bridge from the center, jumping up and down across the bridge, running back and forth across the bridge, dancing on the bridge, and sparkling.

Joy Valley View
Joy Bridge Deck View

Final Joy programming in Pharos Designer 2

Finale - Final Design

These are the final videos for the Finale segment that I designed and programmed in Pharos Designer 2.

In this finale, we see some repeated segment from the introduction, tying the story back together. We see the white light appear again (the combination of all of the colors/emotions), but this time instead of glitching, it stays and the emotions are able to come together successfully. It is only after celebrating each emotion and appreciating the crucial roles that each plays throughout the show that they can all work together as a team. The show concludes with fireworks, bursts of color, and ultimately a strong, stable white light.

Finale Valley View
Finale Bridge Deck View

Final finale programming in Pharos Designer 2

Final Showcase

Our team displayed our show in front of everyone in the class and an audience at our course's final showcase at the end of the semester.

Structure of the final show:




Joy (photographed by Sierra Young)


Fear (photographed by Sierra Young)


Disgust (photographed by Sierra Young)


Anger (photogaphed by Sierra Young)


Sadness (photographed by Sierra Young)



Final Feedback

Our team received the following very positive feedback from our instructors at our final showcase:

We also received feedback that our project was a nice show with a good variety of visuals that won't be too distracting to people working nearby! The professors said that it would be a great fit for the normal bridge rotation and our show now plays regularly at night!


I faced many challenges throughout this process:

Lessons Learned

This was my first ever project in lighting design and I am very happy with how it turned out! I ended up becoming so passionate about this class that I became the most involved student in the entire class and tested the most on the bridge out of everyone in the class by far. I am very proud of what I was able to accomplish. 

I learned many lessons along the way:


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