What is a Lighting Special, and How Do I Focus it?

Wireless DMX can control any light that takes DMX!

If you’ve worked with anyone who has theatrical training, then you may have heard them refer to a lighting “Special”. But what is a special, anyways?

In this post, we “focused” on creating an even wash of light – what I would call “the foundation of a good lighting focus”.  Without a solid wash, your lighting system will always be lacking.  But what if you have an area on stage to highlight, or a set piece off to the side of stage?  You’ll need a lighting special.

A special is a light or lights that is not part of a wash, highlighting a specific spot on stage.  

It’s that light you focus when you need a light “there”, wherever isn’t covered by the rest of your lighting rig- or perhaps just a tight focus on an object you want to isolate for some part of your service or event.  

A special can be either a conventional light that you can move depending on your needs- or it can be a moving light if you have some.  

Moving lights can take the place of many specials, since only one needs to be on at a time, as long as the moving light has a good quality white light that matches the color temperature of your wash!

To begin, you want to identify what you need specials for- that is, what areas on stage you want to isolate by themselves.  As I mentioned above you may want a special an area on stage, a singer for special music, or a set piece.  

You may also want to focus a special for each band member, a specific scene in a play, or the aisles in the audience.  Your next step is to figure out where that light is going to be pointed from.

Hopefully, you have at least a couple of extra lights to have specials permanently hung in your lighting rig, waiting to be focused in various places.  

If you have the space and fixtures, then you can just redirect the fixtures as needed, making it easier to focus a special when needed.  

If you have moving lights, then you can sit at your console and figure out which one you want to redirect, and then work through any special programming to make it seamlessly go to the special focus from wherever it usually lives.

Specials are a great way to enhance the presentation of many moments during your service or show.  They can add a new dimension of closeness and intimacy by only lighting what you need lit, and nothing extra like your wash lights.  

With careful consideration, you can place specials well and add production value to whatever you are lighting!

About the author