Chicago-based freelance lighting designer Joshua Schultz, best known for his work with R&B and hip-hop artists like Kid Cudi and R. Kelly, recently stepped up to using Avolites’ Sapphire Touch lighting console.

Schultz is certainly no stranger to Avolites, having been a longtime user of the company’s TITAN software and Pearl Expert Pro desk with the touch wing. When the opportunity arose for the LD to get his hands on a Sapphire Touch for Kid Cudi’s Cleveland and Brooklyn performances in late March, he jumped at the chance.

“Being familiar with TITAN 7, my transition from the Expert to the Sapphire was pretty seamless,” he says. “Although I had never been on the Sapphire before, I rented one in L.A. for three days of rehearsals prior to the last two Cud Life shows and it was super-simple to set up. We were using a Resolume media server and, after changing a couple or IP addresses in the console and computer, everything was up and running flawlessly.”

Schultz notes that it’s no secret as to why the Sapphire Touch is touted as Avolites’ flagship desk. “This console is incredibly feature-rich,” he enthuses. “As an LD, I sometimes hit a certain point with fixtures where I’ll say, ‘Okay, what else can I do with them? I’ve already done this, this and this.’ When I really started diving into the Sapphire, I found that there was so much more that I could do with what I had in front of me. The desk’s effects engine, cue stacking, pixel mapping and other bells and whistles really opened up a bunch of new creative avenues for me as a programmer.”

For the Wolstein Center and Barclays Center shows, the LD particularly appreciated the fact that he didn’t have to hard patch the show’s fixtures onto specific faders, which he normally would have done on the Expert. “It was definitely a great experience to patch everything through TITAN and not have anything actually in the console itself eating up handles,” he says. “I loved being able to have all of that empty space to work with.”

The two performances were Kid Cudi’s final wrap-up concerts for his Cud Life tour, which was sonically and visually supported by LMG. Boasting a Joe Gallagher set design featuring a large moon rock cave and giant 40×19′ video wall backdrop, the show’s fixtures controlled by the Avolites desk included 12 spot luminaires, 28 LED moving head wash lights with zoom, 18 strobes, 26 high-intensity moving lights, 20 four-way audience blinders and 12 additional washes. Schultz adds that most of the LED fixtures and blinders were pixel mapped on the Sapphire Touch to create unique chase effects for the show.

With the Cud Life gigs behind him, Schultz is now heading out for a ten-show arena tour with R. Kelly that will run through mid-May and, of course, be carrying the Sapphire Touch. “After those two dates with Kid Cudi, I can’t wait to do more shows on it,” he says. “As far as flexibility and ‘throw and go’ ease-of-use are concerned, there’s no other console out there that can touch it.”