Nissan Ragnar Interactive Gateways

Summer 2021


Freakylamps was hired by GMR and Protect Awesome on behalf of Nissan to create interactive lighting for gateways. Runners of the Ragnar trail race run trigger exploding light and color effects as they go pass through the gates. There were 4 gates created by Scenario Custom, and we fabricated the LED channels to be embedded in the gates, as well as the entire system that triggers and powers the lights.


all gates setup at the Crystal Mountain, WA race
render of one of the gates


schematics, code and design files can be found at the github repo

LED Channels

Each gateway was ~9’ tall and ~8’ across. Working with the fabricators at Scenario, the channel was fabricated to lie inside the archway. A system of LED lighting in channels up and across these archways was designed. It involved running both addressable LED strip (for dynamic animations) and analog led strips (for more pop and brightness) side by side in 4” channels 8’ long. Channels were fabricated from wood and the LEDs were diffused with white acrylic.

lighting channel
LED channel wiring diagram
Aaron displaying a finished channel!


The goal was to create lighting animations as the runners ran through the gateways. This involved setting up PIR sensors (human motion detector sensors) 10 feet before the gateway so we the runner could see the lighting as they went through the gate. There were 4 gates and 4 PIR sensors. The first sensor started the animation, brought the lights up, and began playback of an audio track. Here is a diagram of a typical site deployment:

site layout

PIR Sensor

The PIR sensor had to be modified so that it could be triggered quickly. Out of the box there is about a 30 second wait time between triggers. This was unacceptable and the hardware was modified to trigger faster. This PIR uses a BISS0001 chip. As noted on the datasheet, changing R10 and R9 can change the Tx (time of pulse) and Ti (time that trigger is inhibited). I did some experimenting and found a sweet spot that would still sometimes give a double trigger, but was more responsive than the factory settings. With a little software filtering in TouchDesigner, it worked well.

PIR sensor modification

If you happen to need to mount the standard PIR sensor in something, I created a laser cut file to mount it inside of an enclosure, although it could be modified to be mounted in anything.


Since the system was being deployed outside in rugged terrain, we had to modularize it and make it swappable and robust. The system consisted of 5 Pelican Cases, 4 “satellite” cases, and 1 “computer world” case.
The Satellite cases had power supplies, DMX decoder, and pixel controller, and connectors for everything to interface with it.

interior of satellite box
satellite diagram
satellites testing
satellites ready to deploy
system testing
satellites ready to deploy

Computer World

An Intel Nuc running TouchDesigner ran the show. There was a microcontroller taking in the PIR sensor readings and feeding them to TouchDesigner. TouchDesigner was sending out audio, wired and wireless DMX, and pixel lighting data via a network. We created a rack system for the computer and many peripherals for the system.

computer box diagram
computer world case (open)
computer world case (closed)
computer world case (closed)

Behind the Scenes

Below are some shots from the fabrication and test week in August 2021

walkthrough video of the setup
aldo and aaron in the zone
eddie and I d scope probing of a satellite box
eddie in the program zone!
parks wiring up a satellite box
aldo and parks working on wiring
a test of the channels

the team

The team consisted of many fantastic hardworking people:
Chris Ahnberg - touch designer programmer
Eddie Farr - programmer and fabricator
Aaron Artrip - fabricator
Jane Foley - fabricator
Parks Miller - fabricator
Aldo - fabricator
Chris Chambers - fabricator