Daniel Bateman on documentary TV shooting with Cinema EOS cameras

Emmy-award-winning DoP Daniel Bateman's grounding in post-production has made him a skilled storyteller with a Canon camera. Here, he talks about his kit, his techniques, and his approach to shooting documentary TV.
Daniel Bateman stands holding a Canon Cinema EOS camera, with four other figures next to him, looking our over grasslan

Filming for documentary TV, it's often impossible to reshoot if you miss the moment, so DoP Daniel Bateman advocates using all the assistance your camera tech can give you. He takes advantage of Face Detection AF more these days, he says, particularly for "on-the-shoulder, walking interviews. If you want to shoot at f/2.8, then it's quite hard to hold your focus manually when people are moving around in front of you." © Jo Munnik

Daniel Bateman's career is a blueprint for aspiring documentary TV makers. Passionate about photography and photojournalism as a teenager, Daniel went on to study film production at university, where he focused on documentary filmmaking. After working as a video editor for about five years, he befriended people who specialised in conflict filmmaking and he hasn't looked back.

Daniel has now been shooting documentaries for more than a decade, filming and directing content for HBO, VICE, the BBC and more. He's taken his cameras to many countries around the world, and in 2022 he won two Emmy awards as part of the team behind the VICE News documentary Inside the Battle for Jerusalem.

Daniel says his background in post-production has benefitted his documentary TV shooting. "I approach a shoot with the idea that I'm filming for an edit, and working through a mental checklist of shots," he says.

"A lot of the time in documentary filmmaking you might have access to a location for a very limited amount of time, for whatever reason. So, if you've got 20 minutes in total and 15 minutes of that time is spent filming with a contributor, you know you'll have five minutes at the end to spin around the location and try to get the editor as much material as possible to piece the sequence together."

A photo by Daniel Bateman showing a small child being held aloft over a fence topped with barbed wire, with a crowd of figures looking through from behind.

Daniel's work with VICE News has seen him cover stories around the world, including at this refugee camp outside Erbil, Iraq. "We offer a type of storytelling that I think a lot of other outlets shy away from or don't quite give enough time to," he says. "[As documentary filmmakers] we're given the time on the ground to let the people we speak to tell their story in more detail." Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM) at 16mm, 1/8000 sec, f/2.8 and ISO 800. © Daniel Bateman

Daniel Bateman stands on a street holding his Canon Cinema EOS camera in one hand. Behind him, people are walking towards a crowd apparently gathering in the background.

Daniel often needs to travel light, move fast and work on his own, but his background in post-production means he's always conscious of what might be needed in the edit. Most of the time, he shoots XF-AVC (YCC 4:2:2, 10-bit) at 1080p resolution. "Sometimes I'll switch to 4K for an interview, so I'll have the option of two angles using one camera," he says. "Or if I'm filming a landscape, 4K is great for capturing as much detail as possible and it gives the option in post to crop and to grade with more information." © Jo Munnik

Documentary TV shooting with the EOS C500 Mark II

Daniel has shot almost exclusively with Canon cameras throughout his career and began making documentaries with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II (now succeeded by the EOS 5D Mark IV). "I was massively influenced by a surge of online documentaries in the early 2010s, and a lot of those were being made on the EOS 5D Mark II," he says. "So that was my first camera of choice at that time. After that I moved to the EOS C300 [now succeeded by the EOS C300 Mark III] and EOS C100 [now succeeded by the EOS C70], before mostly staying with the EOS C300 Mark I and Mark II."

When he was considering upgrading from the EOS C300 Mark II, he tested out a number of different cameras. He now uses an EOS C500 Mark II, with an EOS C300 Mark III as his B-cam.

There were two main reasons for choosing the EOS C500 Mark II, he explains. "The first reason was its full-frame sensor. Frequently when you're filming documentaries, you're shooting in cramped conditions, such as in a car or a small room. That full-frame sensor when paired with a 24-105mm or 24-70mm L-series lens gives you so much more room than on a crop sensor. Suddenly, filming in a car feels much more spacious."

The camera's dynamic range was the other big benefit. "Having 15+ stops of dynamic range to play with in post is just great," Daniel says. "When you're filming a protest, for example, you're rushing and under a bit of stress. If the light suddenly changes then the exposure might be off by a stop or two in either direction, so having that dynamic range is really useful. It means you can correct any problems in post-production."

There are other features of the EOS C500 Mark II that Daniel highlights as being important for documentary shooting in fast-moving situations.

"I love how customisable the EOS C300 and EOS C500 cameras are," Daniel says. "One of the core principles of observational filmmaking, I think, is that you should minimise your presence. You don't want to influence what's playing out in front of you, but to try to capture those moments naturally. So having a camera that I can make much smaller, more lightweight and less noticeable, but still maintain that same quality, is really beneficial."

Daniel is equally enthusiastic about the 5-axis Electronic Image Stabilisation (IS) in both the EOS C500 Mark II and EOS C300 Mark III. "That's proven to be fantastic, particularly for filming B-roll and general cutaways in situations where there isn't time to set up a tripod," he says.

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A photo taken by Daniel Bateman showing a small boy standing in a desert in Iraq with black smoke from a fire billowing into the air in the background.

Daniel usually shoots using Canon L-series lenses and lists his three go-to zooms as the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM, the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM (now succeeded by the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM) and the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM, which he uses as his primary run-and-gun lens. "It allows me to film in changing environments quite easily," he says. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III (now succeeded by the EOS 5D Mark IV) with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens (now succeeded by the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM) at 16mm, 1/8000 sec, f/2.8 and ISO 800. © Daniel Bateman

Better balance with an Extension Unit

Although he's pleased to have the option of reducing the size of his camera, Daniel says that his typical build is actually not that small.

"Unless I'm in a more stressful or sensitive environment, I prefer to shoot with an extension unit and a slightly bigger lens. I've found that having a larger, more balanced camera is better for my back when filming for prolonged periods of time."

Daniel uses an Extension Unit 2 EU-V2, which offers a wealth of expandability by providing Genlock/SYNC and Ethernet ports, a 12-pin lens terminal, as well as two additional XLR terminals, a V-mount battery plate, and more.

"I bought it mostly for the ability to use V-Lock batteries for longer days of filming," he explains, "but the two additional audio channels have proved to be invaluable as well. Very often, clients don't offer a sound recordist, so I have to run all the audio as a one-man band. I can feel a bit limited with only two audio channels in some situations, but having two more means that I can stick lavalier mics on four people and quite happily monitor them."

Figures with baskets on their backs pick tea leaves in a misty field.

"I typically shoot Canon Log 2 during the day and Canon Log 3 at night-time," Daniel says. "Speaking to other DoPs in the industry, it seems to be the case that Canon Log 3 can just give you more information in low light and handle that higher ISO. So it's really useful for documentary shooting." Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at 105mm, 1/160 sec, f/2.8 and ISO 1000. © Daniel Bateman

Customising a Canon documentary camera

One situation that proved technically demanding for both audio and video recording was when Daniel was documenting night-time protests for Inside the Battle for Jerusalem. "It was an intense shoot for a number of reasons, and the stress of filming in those protest situations was quite high," he reveals.

Daniel shot primarily on his EOS C500 Mark II, with secondary camera operator Ayman Abu Ramouz using an EOS C300 Mark III.

"I have always stuck with Canon cameras for those more stressful shoots, because of the ergonomics and the ability to make the camera smaller – you just don't want to be noticed in those environments," he says.

The ability to do this without sacrificing control is what makes the difference. "I want it to be very customisable, I want to quickly be able to change white balance, adjust ISO, or alter my audio levels," he continues. "Having that ability to easily adjust audio on the camera, both on the dials on the side but also internally in the menu setup, is really useful, and you can do that in a matter of seconds.

"I've made a lot of use of the customisable menus and I've got things such as monitor channels, format cards, timecode and sensor mode in there."

Filmmaker Ben Sherlock with the Canon EOS C500 Mark II.

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 Two children, one wearing a facemask, stand in front of a fire and plume of smoke.

Backup files can save the day

Having shot with Cinema EOS cameras for such a long time, Daniel has developed techniques that enable him to react quickly. "I've programmed a button on my camera to do One-Shot AF," he reveals. "So if I've got the focus guide on the monitor and I can see it's starting to slip focus, I hit that pre-programmed button and in one shot it's regained focus on a person's face, while I'm still walking backwards with a camera on my shoulder, which makes life a lot easier."

He has also adopted a workflow that enables him to safeguard the results. "I use two 512GB CFexpress cards, and I'll typically double-slot those," he explains. "So I'll just use the A card as my ingest card, I'll offload that and back it up on to a drive, then back up that master drive so I've got two backups. I'll also have a third backup that just lives on that B-slot 512GB card. If I'm filming proxies with an SD card then that's another safe copy.

"I've been in many situations where police or less formal organised groups have demanded the memory card from the camera. That's when having that dual slot and the proxy card is really useful," he says. "I can format a card at a police or military checkpoint quite happily knowing that I've potentially got two backups inside my camera.

"A lot of the time with documentary filming, you can be in quite difficult situations, and I've learned that you need to allow yourself to become a lot more comfortable in those environments. In the end, that's what allows you to come away with better footage."

Marcus Hawkins

Daniel Bateman's kitbag

The key kit pros use for documentary TV filmmaking

A Canon EOS C500 Mark II sits on a wooden table.


Canon EOS C500 Mark II

A compact and flexible Cinema EOS camera with a full-frame sensor, which was an important consideration for Daniel: "In a lot of situations where you're filming documentaries, the ability to create more space in a small environment is desirable," he says.

Canon EOS C300 Mark III

The 4K Super 35mm DGO sensor in this versatile Cinema EOS camera offers 16+ stops of dynamic range, which Daniel finds invaluable in post-production. "I've found Canon cameras very forgiving in many situations over the years," he says.


Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

A professional-quality standard zoom that offers outstanding image quality and a fast f/2.8 aperture throughout its zoom range. "It's my go-to run-and-gun zoom," Daniel says, "mainly because of its f/2.8 aperture. I think it just looks a bit more cinematic."

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM

A workhorse telephoto zoom lens designed for professional use, with a rugged, durable design and a four-stop Image Stabilizer. "This is a fantastic lens for scenics or just general B-roll," says Daniel. "I've used it quite a lot in interviews as well where I want the option to punch in and out in-camera, and to have a shallower depth of field."

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

A standard wide-angle lens beloved by reportage photographers for its natural perspective, low-light capability and extraordinary optical performance. "This is my primary prime lens," Daniel says. "Filming at f/1.8 or f/1.4 gives a shallow depth of field that can lend itself quite nicely to more intimate, emotional moments."


Canon Extension Unit 2 EU-V2

Attaching to the camera's extension terminal, this unit adds Genlock/SYNC, REMOTE B (RS-422), Ethernet, 2x XLR terminals, and more ."It adds weight to my setup," Daniel says, "but having that weight over your back as opposed to directly on your shoulder balances the camera out nicely."

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