Boise stop-motion animator brings Legos to life
Jared Jacobs wants you to know he’s not that guy.
You know, one of those sad, lonely, 40-year-old men who is holed up in his parents’ basement, playing with Legos into the wee hours of the night.
Some wrongly presume that’s him, he said, because who else would have 30-plus hours to lovingly craft 30-second videos of big sports moments and scenes from the TV show “Breaking Bad”?
“My family keeps me pretty busy,” said Jacobs, a happily married father of three young children. “It’s really just about making time to do the things you want to do. I don’t know how I fit it in.”
Sometime he’s up all night bringing the tiny plastic figures to life — but that’s mostly because daddy now has deadlines.
He’s been hired by the Big Ten Network to produce 10 of the mini-movies, one per week during the football season. The videos are stop-motion animations made from a series of 130 to 250 still photos. This week’s features the Ohio State University marching band spelling out “Ohio,” with the iconic dotting of the “i” by a sousaphone player.
It’s still a hobby for Jacobs, and he plans to keep his day job as marketing specialist at Franklin Building Supply. He declined to disclose how much he’s paid for his videos, but he said the pay is decent, and his asking price is going up.
“I’ve found a little niche where I can make famous football plays or sports plays,” said Jacobs, a Canadian who came to Idaho for college and made a life here.
Some of his college football re-enactments have been wildly popular online, including Michigan’s fumbled punt on the last play of its 2015 loss to Michigan State and BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum’s winning Hail Mary pass last year against Nebraska.
His most popular ever? Probably Tiger Woods’ famous chip shot on the 16th hole at the 2005 Masters. Jacobs’ favorites include one he did of golfer Graham DeLaet, formerly of Boise State.
Boise State football?
Jacobs is a BYU-Idaho graduate, but he roots for the Broncos as a self-described bandwagon fan. He jumped on after the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, when BSU stunned the Oklahoma Sooners.
He’s looking forward to re-creating one of Boise State’s big plays in the Fiesta Bowl and/or some big moment on the Blue.
I’m a huge Boise State fan. So much so, I refuse to create a play involving Boise State on the losing end of it.
But don’t look for him to re-create something from a BSU loss, even if some Nevada fan offered him a large sum of money to remake the end of the Wolf Pack’s 2010 game with Boise State. The Broncos lost that game after missing two field goals, and that took them out of the national championship conversation.
“I wouldn’t do it. They couldn’t pay me enough,” he said.
Jacobs has a buddy who works for BYU, and his friend got him onto the sidelines of last year’s BSU-BYU game in Provo. That was when Mangum threw his second “Mangum miracle” touchdown, beating the Broncos.
“I’m still a little bitter about that loss,” said Jacobs, who had to wear a BYU jersey to stand on the sidelines that night but defiantly wore a Boise State belt buckle and Bronco flip-flops.
Art finds a way
Jacobs, 38, had planned to study art in college. His father asked him what he would do with a degree in art, and the dutiful son changed his major to business management.
“Which I had no interest in,” he said.
One of his creative outlets after college was making and posting rap videos to YouTube. He considered going back to college to study film but decided against another degree. Instead, he gained insight and inspiration from talking to others making videos for YouTube and attending Anaheim’s VidCon, which bills itself as a conference “for people who love online video.”
During a lull in Thanksgiving festivities at his mother-in-law’s house in Idaho Falls four or five years ago, he retreated to the basement to work on a Lego stop-motion animation scene.
“I started making some ‘Breaking Bad’ scenes with my nephew’s Legos,” he said.
He’s done about 50 stop-motion videos. Many are posted on his Instagram account (@goldyeller). There are all sorts of scenes, everything from “Ghostbusters“ to the NBA Finals to renowned artist Bob Ross painting.
For the Big Ten project, Jacobs is using figures made by Oyo, a Lego competitor that’s licensed by the NCAA.
The football animations he does are extremely tedious. He’s working with around 140 figures: 100 in the crowd, 30 players, four to five coaches, three referees and a couple of camera guys. Between each shot, he moves them ever so slightly.
“The lighting is always what gives me the most headaches,” he said.
How does he make the football look like it’s flying through the air? Putty and fishing line.
He’s a stickler for the details. He switches out figures’ faces so their expressions change with the game audio.
He watches game footage hundreds of times so he can accurately capture details such as fans in the crowd high-fiving and players jumping in the stands. He says he places “Easter egg” details as treats for those who watch his videos closely: “Sometimes I’ll put Tom Brady in a frame, just to see if anyone sees it.”
Jacobs doesn’t recall playing with Legos growing up, but now his family’s apartment in North Boise sometimes looks as though a Lego tsunami hit it.
Initially, he did his projects on the kitchen table.
“He had monopolized the table, so I rearranged the living room so he could have his own corner,” said his wife, Audie, who home-schools their three children: Jovie, 10, Oakley, 8, and Anson, 5.
Audie has helped move figures or take photos on a couple of projects. But that’s not her main role.
“I guess I help by keeping the kids out of the house,” she said. Running or jumping in the apartment can shake the camera.
The kids seem to enjoy dad’s hobby, and it’s spreading.
“I’ve got a ton of Legos because of it,” said Jovie. And both she and her younger sister are proud to have made videos.