Who are you, and what do you do?
I'm Lee Hardcastle and I make claymations. I do it all independently and pride myself on being the guy who makes budget films on the breakfast table.
What hardware do you use?
A digital SLR-like camera, the Panasonic Lumix FZ50. It's possibly the cheapest solution for producing professional stop motion. The downfall is that there's no real connection to my camera to my computer, so I use an analog feed into my computer using a Dazzle USB Converter. This feed helps me keep track of what I'm shooting.
For my computer, I have a Sony VAIO Laptop - 300gb harddrive / 1.5gb RAM. I've had it for 5 years now, and apart from the graphics card solder melting at one point it's been a reliable piece of kit.
I animate on a table and use plasticine clay as my actors - I prefer to use Newplast clay because you get a lot for your money and they have a great selection of colors. For sets I usually dress up cardboard boxes for INT shots and for EXT shots I tend to shoot against a green piece of card. For my lighting I use standard desk lamps.
And what software?
Windows Vista operating system, just because it came already on the laptop.
Quicktime Pro is useful for video encoding.
When I record voices by myself, I quickly bang it out on Audacity.
For helping me animate, I use Dragon Stop Motion (Now known as Dragonframe). I purely use it to record my analog feed so I can see my work in progress but there's so much more you can do with it if you have the right camera.
What would be your dream setup?
I need a better laptop and camera. I'm looking at the Lenovo work station laptops, something portable and powerful. 12gb RAM, 2ghz i7 processor, Quadro 2000m Graphics 2gb
For the camera, I'd like a Canon EOS 7D just to have more control when using Dragonframe. For stop motion purposes it looks as if my best choices for lens would be the Nikon Manual f2.8 types, along with a Canon/Nikon lens adapter.
I'm deffo getting Dragonframe soon and would love to invest in the 3D Stereoscopic slider they've got for sale.
Other equipment I would like to own would be things like motion rigs - they're like big robotic arms that your stills camera sits on the end of. And you program the arm to move during a shot within Dragonframe, to create really smooth looking and complex shots.
I also plan to invest in some better lighting. At the moment as I'm a beginner with this stuff and don't know too much about it (so I can't really share a "dream set") I'm looking at getting an Arri Tungsten Fresnel kit with C-Stands and sand bags just to propel further as a professional.