USA - Leading UK lighting designer Dave Byars has put his brand new Avolites Sapphire Touch to work on Brit-pop band Blur's heavily atmospheric 2013 tour, which has smouldered under the stars in venues and at festivals, including Coachella, California.
Dave Byars - who has been in charge of lighting Blur since the band first formed - had quite a challenge on his hands. Maintaining his high design values, while coping with the varying set ups of festivals, and arenas around the world is no mean feat. This is especially true in Byars' case as he is not touring his own rig but rather using festival house rigs or hiring locally at each venue. This means he often ends up with very different set ups or equipment types for each show.
"Being able to programme and design on the fly is essential for a tour like this one," stresses Byars. "I've been an Avolites console user for over 20 years, Diamond 4 primarily but now the Sapphire Touch. I've been impressed with the accessibility of the various design palettes on the control surface of the Sapphire Touch - I used it at Hyde Park with Blur last year and then again on Deacon Blue. Having the Titan Mobile as back up on my laptop has also been a real bonus. I can now take care of all the show patching and housekeeping in between festivals, either on the plane, tour bus or in my hotel room."
In fact Byars says he pre-programmed much of the Coachella lighting on his laptop during the flight to California and then simply plugged his USB stick carrying the show into his Sapphire Touch. "It patched straight in without a hitch! Also much appreciated is the Sapphire Touch's easy to access Quicksketch freehand tool. This allows me to keep on top of my design in the more often than not, challenging festival environments."
Byars also says that the easy to access functionality of the Sapphire Touch mixed with a bigger, more versatile platform offers him all the control he requires during some invariably frenetic festival changeovers. "The extra playbacks and dual screen really lend themselves to the busy festival environment," he continues. "This combined with the power to easily transpose an arena programmed show to the festival circuit using the Titan software is invaluable. Titan v6 allows me to visually map the rig on the screen of my console. This certainly makes the process of copying, pasting and cloning fixtures a complete breeze!
So why buy rather than hire? Well Byars says he has always had a very positive relationship with the team at Avolites and has always felt supported technically: "It seemed like the right time and a good idea to invest in my own Sapphire Touch for this tour. I think the software is stable enough and I knew it would be an eclectic collection of venues and festivals. My view was that it would really smooth the design and programming process to be as in tune with the console as possible."
Koy Neminathan, sales director for Avolites continues: "Avolites is proud to say that we've had a long-standing and extremely productive relationship with Dave Byars for many years. It's great for us to hear that he has been so impressed with the Sapphire Touch. We really value Dave's opinion as he knows our consoles inside out and has always given very helpful feedback from festivals and venues which we have fed back into our product development and design over the years. Our Avolites Curry Club has often provided the perfect opportunity for feedback from Dave too!"
UK - Award-winning lighting designer Jamie Thompson has applauded the speed, ease of use and incredible effects capabilities of Avolites' Sapphire Touch console as he uses it to control his dynamic and evocative mixed media design for The Script's current arena tour - #3.
Thompson - who in 2011 was presented with a Knight of Illumination Award for his lighting design for The Script's Arena tour - says the Sapphire Touch is not only enabling him to enhance his creative lighting design, but also ensuring that he can programme quickly within the time constraints of the tour schedule.
"I've always been a big user of Avolites, not just for their products, which I love, but also because of the company itself and the support and friendly advice that is on hand, all around the world 24/7,” comments Thompson. "I actually own the first ever manufactured Sapphire Touch - 001 - and since I bought it have used it on every show I do. Once it's set up and configured it's a very easy and creative tool to use. It provides a smooth interface between the stage and me and I can find what I need in the rig and programme it very quickly. I can also load fixtures and effects very fast, which is a big thing for me with the obvious time constraints. The effects I can get out of the console are massive. It's a clear choice for me."
Thompson has been working with The Script now for five years, creating spectacular lighting designs that mirror the energy, passion and dynamism of the band's sound.
"The inclusion of the pixel mapper on the Sapphire Touch is really amazing - it's like a mini video server, allowing me to draw pictures with lighting and quickly animate them in my show," continues Thompson. "The layout of the palette, the touch screens, and the Titan software has come on leaps and bounds - the colours being visual, and the fact that you can make your own labels are great additions. In a way, the Sapphire Touch is a bit like an Apple product - easy to use and easy to look at! And the new Titan software really pushes the console to new places."
The Script's current tour, entitled # 3, played at some of the UK's biggest venues, including Liverpool's Echo Arena, and London's O2 Arena and Wembley Stadium and has now headed off to South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand and then on to the US before returning to the UK to follow the festival circuit.
"We are proud that Jamie Thompson bought the first ever Avolites Sapphire Touch off the production line. The expansive workspace area the console offers can be crucial on tours like The Script, which feature complex lighting design concepts and which require fast set up," explains Koy Neminathan, sales director for Avolites Ltd. "The Sapphire Touch integrates Avolites comprehensive Titan V6 operating system and offers dual touch screen monitors for an enhanced and faster workflow. This console is designed for large-scale arena tours and thus offers designers fast programming and efficient and smooth automated playback. We are delighted that Jamie is such a big fan of the console and wish him all the very best on the rest of the tour."
UK - Avolites top of the range Sapphire Touch lighting console is the control and programming tool of choice for lighting designer Chris Bushell, currently touring with Florence & the Machine.
Bushell, who was this year shortlisted for the much-coveted Knight of Illumination Award for lighting design, took the Sapphire Touch out on the summer’s festival circuit, where he dazzled audiences with his stunning, art deco inspired design.
“I’ve always used Avolites consoles and the new software just keeps getting better and better,” comments Bushell “I started out on a Pearl a fair few years ago. I’ve tried many other consoles along the way but kept returning to Avo. I then used a Diamond 4. I was particularly thrilled when that platform was effectively put into a Tiger Touch. So much so that I bought a console of my very own!
“Although much more compact, the Tiger Touch still has the unmistakable "live" Avo quality that other desks lack. Not only that Avo has found ways of making these consoles do what all other desks do, but in an easier and more intuitive way.”
The Sapphire Touch is a new step for Bushell, who until the festival season was working with his own Tiger Touch. “I program and operate visually not mathematically,” explains Bushell. “I'm not interested in punching numbers into a desk. The Avolites consoles enable me to quickly and simply achieve what I want, whatever the nature of the job. I asked to take the Sapphire out for some festivals as the dual screen and extra playbacks really lend themselves to that fast paced environment.”
On the festival circuit Bushell doesn’t always have the luxury of programming the night before or even the morning before doors! The simplistic functionality of the Sapphire Touch mixed with a bigger, more versatile platform offers Bushell everything he needed during an often frantic 30-minute changeover, where he’s invariably seeing things for the first time.
“The Sapphire Touch is expansive workspace area can be crucial for shows featuring complex and structural lighting design concepts such as Chris’s design for Florence & the Machine,” explains Koy Neminathan, sales director for Avolites Ltd. “In particular the Sapphire Touch offers the easy to access Quicksketch freehand tool, which enables Chris to keep control of his design in the challenging festival environment.”
Something that has also proven invaluable for Bushell is the ability to easily transpose the programmed show from the arenas to the festival circuit as he explains: “The Titan software allows me to visually map the rig out on the screen of my console. In comparison to everyone else - who might be squinting at festival plots and trying to cross reference fixture numbers - this makes the process of copying, pasting and cloning fixtures on any Avo console a doddle”
Bushell used the Sapphire Touch for Florence and the Machine at a number of festivals during the summer including the bands appearance at Tennent’s Vital in Belfast on 22nd August, playing just before headliners Stone Roses. She then made appearances at Reading on 25th and Leeds on 26th, before making a huge impression at Bestival on 7th September. Florence and the Machine continue to tour in the US in October before returning to Europe and finally the UK where the tour will culminate at the O2 in Dublin on 12th December.