The American Film Institute Showcase

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

While the Backlot Tour at Disney’s Hollywood Studios isn’t nearly as exciting (in my opinion) as it used to be, one cool factor is the American Film Institute (AFI) Showcase. The tram drops you off here at the end of the tour. You can also access it via the AFI Showcase Shop.

Here you’ll discover costumes, props, sketches, and videos from various movies. The display changes every so often. When I visited last May the theme was Villains and I’m pretty sure it’s the same now.

In order to preserve the materials, the Showcase is kept at a consistent temperature, dimly lit, and most pieces are kept in display cases. If you’ve ever toured a movie studio*, you’ll find this to be rather common.

Photographing in these conditions can be tough. A flash would bounce off the glass. There are reflections in the glass anyway from lights and exit signs. You need a high ISO and a semi-long shutter speed. All of these combined can lead to noisy photos which to me is far worse than film grain. But you do what you can with what you have, right? Right!

The Canon PowerShot S5 IS (out of production – new version coming soon) was my tool. In Manual mode, I set my ISO to 800 because 400 would have required me to use a tripod I didn’t bring and 1600 looked ghastly.

f3.2, 1/30, ISO 800
This ensemble belonged to the character Nathaniel from the movie “Enchanted.” When taking this shot, I steadied myself and held my breath.

f3.2, 1/10, ISO 800
This chariot belongs to White Witch from “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” I was able to place my camera on the partition that keeps people far enough away from the props, to help steady the camera.

f3.2, 1/10, ISO 800
Davy Jones’ organ from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy. This was right by the chariot so I shot it the same way. I feared setting off an alarm for placing my camera on the beam but a CM watched me and didn’t say anything so I guess it was alright.

*If you visit the Los Angeles area, check out the studio tour at Warner Bros. It’s THE best one.

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