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Inventions, Patents, and Innovations

Hepworth claims to have invented many things - however, given the intense competition in the industry at the time, sometimes you cannot be sure! So, until I can verify the facts, please treat these claims with a pinch of salt! If you can add to this list, please get in touch.

  • Hepworth invented a type of arc lamp for Robert Paul in 1895.

  • In 1897, he penned one of the first handbooks on filmmaking - "Animated Photography, or the ABC of the Cinematograph".

  • The Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria (1897) was one of the first major public events to be filmed. The Diamond Jubilee directly motivated the invention of the first panning shot. The film pioneer, Cecil Hepworth, invented a camera stand that would allow him to pan his camera, and consequently shoot more of the long Jubilee procession through London. [Bill Douglas Centre]

  • Hepworth patented several film-oriented inventions including a new kind of projection bulb and an automated system for developing and printing films.

  • In 1900 Cecil Hepworth uses slow motion The Eccentric Dancer, a close-up of his own head in The Egg-laying Man and reverse motion in The Bathers, the second half of the film reversing the first half.

  • He filmed the funeral of Queen Victoria in 1901. At the age of 26, film director Cecil Hepworth convinced the powers that be to allow him to film - for the sake of posterity - the funeral of Queen Victoria. Hepworth argued that this was an "event of a lifetime" that cinema could capture like no other medium. Hepworth placed his camera, like a privileged spectator, at the front of the line, witnessing everything that passed. In addition to the military pomp, a parade of global figures King Edward VII, Kaiser Wilhelm and the Duke of Connaught floated by. Indeed the King paused for just a second in what may be the first occurrence of a celebrity playing to the camera. In his autobiography Hepworth claimed the King stopped the cortege in front of the camera to ensure it would be captured for posterity. Maybe. Or maybe the King was annoyed by the noise of the camera, which Hepworth confessed was considerable! Cecil Hepworth committed all of the small resources at his disposal to cover the route at various points, and the resulting film proved an international success, with sales secured the future of his company, a major player in the industry for many years thereafter. Perhaps more important, it solidified cinema's claim to being the official recorder of history. The company worked 24 hour shifts for several days to process all the orders that came in for film of the funeral from around the world.

  • In 1910 Hepworth invented the Vivaphone, an early synchronized sound system that utilized a phonograph - one of many competing systems to add sound to the silent film. The Vivaphone is the subject of British Patent No. 10417 of 26th April 1910. There were numerous competing systems.
    The Cinephone and the Vitaphone are similar types of systems used for sound and film synchronization. In Barker's Cinephone, each scene was acted in front of a recording phonograph and then re-enacted in front of the camera to match the recording. A projector was adjusted so that it ran at the same fixed speed as the phonograph. Visual dials as indicators adjusted the speed. Hepworth's Vivaphone was simpler than the Cinephone, where the synchronization of sound and visuals, was adjusted by using a single indicator in combination with colored glass. The indicator, powered by an electro-magnet, showed either green or red lights to the operator for adjusting the speed.

  • In 1913 he filmed the first production of "Alice in Wonderland" (now available on a BFI DVD). Alice in Wonderland, an 800 ft spectacular, was the largest project they ever attempted and was the longest film of its time. Mabel Clark, a girl from the cutting room at Hurst Grove, played Alice, and Hepworth's wife was the White Rabbit. The film was shot in the gardens of Mount Felix in Walton.

  • The first feature film presented by Royal Command was Cecil Hepworth's production of "Comin' Through the Rye", starring Alma Taylor, which was shown before Queen Alexandra in the State Dining Room of Marlborough House on 4 August 1916.
    [Not sure on this, since Comin Through the Rye was made in 1924]
    Hepworth was no stranger to Royal Command Performances, having been present at the very first one when he had acted as assistant to Birt Acres. The very first Royal Command Film Performance was held at Marlborough House on 21 July 1896 before forty Royal guests. That showing followed an earlier request from pioneer cinematographer Birt Acres of New Barnet, Hertfordshire, to be allowed to exhibit publicly a film he had taken the previous month of the Prince and Princess of Wales (later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra) attending the Cardiff Exhibition. Before giving his permission, The Prince of Wales asked Acres to bring the film to Marlborough House for inspection. It was screened in a specially erected marquee together with twenty other short films, including Tom Merry the Lightning Artist drawing Mr Gladstone and Lord Salisbury, the Derby Races of 1895 and 1896, Henley Regatta and scenes showing a boxing kangaroo, a great Northern Railway express train and the pursuit of a pickpocket.

  • First filming of British politicians - it took some time before the cameras were allowed back into the House of Commons!.

  • His company produced first filmed first hour-long feature-length version of "Hamlet" in 1913

  • Filmed the first feature-length film made in Britain, "David Copperfield" "In spite of its faults, the film is undeniably a milestone in translating Dickens to the screen and demonstrates in scene after scene the pictorial quality and realism for which Hepworth was renowned." � Michael Pointer.

  • His studio was one of the first to use scriptwriters, notably the thriller writer Edgar Wallace who in 1928 was the author of every 4th book published in Great Britain. He wrote the plot of "King Kong"!!! Other famous writers included Walter Summers.

  • Hepworth taught Phalke, "Father of the Indian Film Industry" in 1912. Bollywood was born!

  • He invented The pan shot, and the mechanism to do it.

  • He invented The tracking shot, and the mechanism to do it.

  • He invented the "Star System" making Hepworth Players Chrissie White, Henry Edwards and Alma Taylor the first film stars the world had ever known.


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