"T'was a night in Sherman Oaks, at a brightly-lit house,
That a Fusion controller helped move the elves' mouths . . . "
Video editor Mike Ziemkowski is once again astonishing his neighbors and children from all over Los Angeles with an impressive display that is now lighting up his home at 3901 Longview Valley Road in Sherman Oaks.
"It's opening night for my Christmas display in Sherman Oaks," Ziemkowski told Patch. He even has a website (http://www.lightsondisplay.com) where he shows step-by-step how some of the animated creations and lights are constructed.
The display is one of the most elaborate in Los Angeles. Last year it was chosen as one of the top three displays by Good Morning America and was featured on The History Channel's Modern Marvels and on The Travel Channel.
Ziemkowsk, a video editor, creates network promotions and theatrical marketing spots. He won a Daytime Emmy Award last year for a promotional campaign he worked on.
At the house, a computer-controlled elf who is emceeing the activities leads a singing snowman and dancing elves—all created by Ziemkowski. There is synchronized music and video during the 10-minute show.
On his Facebook page, Ziemkowski provides a lot of technical information for people who are serious about building their own amazing display:
Here's a pic of the controllers used to control the pop-up elves. Unfortunately my TV room becomes a bit of a mess this time of year, but I promise it won't be this bad on the garage floor when showtime rolls around! I'm using a Servo Dog controlled in DMX mode by a Holiday Technologies DMX Fusion Pro controller to control their mouths, and a 12v LOR controller to control the relays used to control the actuators.
If that means anything, it could help people puttering around in their own garage, as Ziemkowski did for the past year.
As he posted on his Facebook page on Sept. 30:
"It was a frustrating weekend working with the animatronics and trying out a new method of programming. Now it's time to program a little bit every day before and after work! I usually start with the candy canes, and then add the tree lights, shrubs and then the remaining elements. This year I've added new RGB floods and possibly some RGB pixels, if time permits. It's going to be a busy month!"
Flood lights are mounted inside a flower pot, and cable wires are hidden. One of Ziemkowski's biggest concerns is to keep light sources from being visible.
The creator said the holidays have always been special for his family. His mother took care of inside decorations, while his dad filled the yard with handmade items, fashioned from wood and other materials.
His father "created motorized displays of the Little Drummer Boy drumming away at the manger, Santa playing a pipe organ and a workshop fully staffed by Santa and his elves," Ziemkowski said on his website. "His displays were always a must-see for the small town of Saint John Indiana."
Ziemkowski has continued his dad's tradition at his Sherman Oaks home since 2003, adding new elements each year to create his own must-see display.
"The house and yard are much smaller, and the animated figures I created have been left behind with relatives in Indiana," Ziemkowski said on his website. "Decorating in a parka and gloves have been replaced with shorts and a t-shirt. The older I get, the more I appreciate this as I decorate in the warm California Novembers, but I still miss the snow."
Computer animation was added in 2003, with animated lights and music all controlled by computer.
Ziemkowski said on his website that he keeps doing this free display for an obvious reason:
"Each year as I stand in the front yard and watch the display, a flood of wonderful childhood memories of Christmases past resurface. My parents always made the holidays so special and I love to be able to share a little bit of the magic they instilled in me. I guess traditions like these and the memories they rekindle are one of most special things we have, and one of the greatest joys of Christmas."
The show, at 3901 Longview Valley Road in Sherman Oaks, runs from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. nightly through New Year's Day.