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André Huff Unleashes Avolites on Martina McBride’s Tour

30 November 2016

Martina McBride’s “Love Unleashed Tour”

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee - November 2016 -- After a summer of the fairs/festival circuit, country star Martina McBride’s new tour design hit US arenas and theatres in October. Along the road, McBride is following the mantra of her “Love Unleashed Tour,” unleashing love by generously supporting local food pantries and charities for those in need.

The tour’s lighting designer and operator, André Huff, is playing his part in making sure that nothing comes “unleashed” in the production of the show. He again sought out reliable control by specifying the flagship Avolites Sapphire Touch console—his desk of choice—along with an Avolites Ai media server.

Huff, with his company Limelite Design Service LLC of Knoxville, TN, is providing the Avolites products for the tour. Christie Lites supplies the rest of the lighting rig, which Huff controls from his console. Meanwhile, Huff also works closely with video projection vendor MooTV on the video content as he’s controlling some video images on the large LED backdrop from his Avolites Ai R4 media server.

With so many key aspects of the show relying on his console, Huff says he sticks with what he likes and what works for him, and the Avolites consoles have never let him down. He’s been a fan and user of the Sapphire Touch since the day it came on the market in 2011, transitioning over from another brand.

Martina McBride’s “Love Unleashed Tour”

For this tour, however, Huff actually kicked off the first few weeks with McBride with the newer Avolites Arena console, as his pair of Sapphire Touches were helping out on another tour. He recently transferred the show back to the Sapphire Touches, an easy task as they are both running the same Titan v10  software.

The difference between using the newer Arena and the Sapphire is just personal preference, he notes. He prefers the Sapphire for various reasons. “It’s the flagship console and has a few more programming surface bells and whistles. The Sapphire Touch gives me more of a workstation. I like its size, the larger amount of real estate I can put in front of me, and having the two dual large touch screens. With my style of programming, I tend to spread a lot of my effects across faders.”

He continues, “The Arena is wider but thinner than the Sapphire; it’s only 18 inches deep and comes with a large a small touch screen, whereas the Sapphire Touch has two large touch screens and motorized faders. You can watch the faders move up to 100 percent, so the Sapphire gives you reassurance—it’s more visual, which is a big lead-in to the software.”

Martina McBride’s “Love Unleashed Tour”

The newly released Titan v10 software is very visual, he explains. “You can use Quicksketch to hand draw your positions, your words, pictures to label all your palettes and color arrangements to set up your console. I can’t type anything, but I can doodle like a madman, so that’s what I love about it. It’s a really visual, colorful console—that’s the world we live in: visuals and color. It’s a great designer’s desk and I can fully personalize the work space.”

Both consoles can handle the same large scale of production with the same amount of processing with 16 universes of DMX (expandable to 32 with Titan Net Processor) and eight hardline DMX outputs.

“There are no real limitations. Both consoles are guaranteed to do the same thing and they do it really well. It just depends on which work surface you prefer.”

No matter which Avolites console he’s using, “all the features are there in the Titan software to allow busking or punting,” he says, which describes the ability to run the desk on the fly when the setlist changes to songs that haven’t been pre-programmed with lighting looks. “Avolites have been synonymous with busking; however, I’ve been just as impressed with their time code and advanced cue list functionality. Again, the more real estate you have, the more you can assign things to faders. That’s what you lose with smaller consoles, you lose faders, but you still have the same functions.”

Huff frequently punts McBride’s show during the summer when she changes up the setlist on the fly. “She has a set list that is three-quarters constant. But on this tour, there is a video wall and video elements involved, so we had to timecode more things.”

Huff is familiar with Avolites’ Ai R4 media server, having first used an earlier version of the Ai software two years ago on the Miss Mississippi beauty pageant to split blend two projectors in the middle and then split that image over three projection screens.

“There are a few songs where we don’t use the server. She has an upstage 10mm LED video wall—18 feet high by 16 feet wide—so on that wall during the songs we go back and forth between media content that we built specifically for the song and then live camera shots. All that is run through the Ai R4 so that I am able to control it in the lighting cue programming.”

A video director handles all the camera switching when the IMAG is displayed on the LED wall, he adds.

Though McBride’s show doesn’t make use of all the features of the Ai R4 media server, Huff is familiar with Ai’s ability to wrap objects and surfaces in 3D with media content and the auto-blending feature, utilizing a simple HD web camera plugged into the server.

The “Love Unleashed Tour” runs until the second week of December and continues with the same system next year until the change-out for fairs/festivals in the summer. For more details on the tour, visit Limelite Design Service can be found online at