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Remembering Ray Dolby, The Inventor Who Revolutionized Sound for Cinema

Photo of Paula Bernstein By Paula Bernstein | Indiewire September 13, 2013 at 3:34PM

Yesterday, Ray Dolby, the founder and director emeritus of Dolby Laboratories, who helped revolutionize the way we experience cinema, died at his home in San Francisco at the age of 80. The engineer, audio pioneer, and inventor founded the company in 1965 and grew it into an industry leader in the fields of noise reduction and surround sound.
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Ray Dolby
Dolby Laboratories Ray Dolby

Yesterday, Ray Dolby, the founder and director emeritus of Dolby Laboratories, who helped revolutionize the way we experience cinema, died at his home in San Francisco at the age of 80. The engineer, audio pioneer, and inventor founded the company in 1965 and grew it into an industry leader in the fields of noise reduction and surround sound.

"Today we lost a friend, mentor and true visionary," Kevin Yeaman, President and CEO of Dolby Laboratories, said in a statement. 

Dolby's noise-reduction techniques were honed and perfected with films like "A Clockwork Orange," "Star Wars," and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Dolby's innovative work earned him over 50 patents, Oscars, Emmys, and honors from both the Cannes and Berlin film festivals. He wrote seminal papers on videotape recording, long-wavelength X-ray analysis, and noise reduction. There's no question that Dolby has transformed the entertainment experience-- everything from cinemas to DVDs, video games, digital cable, laser discs and professional recording studios.

Speaking about Ray Dolby's impact, Ioan Allen, Dolby senior vice president of cinema relations, said, "The public doesn’t really know about Ray Dolby.  He's out there somewhere.  But they're aware of the fact that a cassette labeled Dolby sounds good.  That Dolby Surround sounds good.  There's a switch -- look, I can switch it in and out, isn't that great?  You know.  And -- and they’re kind of aware of the fact that Dolby on a theater marquee sounds good.  But all those things are possible, because of Ray Dolby's inventions which are at the heart of the whole process."

Dolby said that "to be an inventor, you have to be willing to live with a sense of uncertainty, to work in the darkness and grope toward an answer, to put up with the anxiety about whether there is an answer." Luckily, for us, he constantly worked towards answers.

Dolby Laboratories shared this video tribute to the company's founder. Watch it below:


This article is related to: Dolby Sound, Ray Dolby, Tech News, Filmmaker Toolkit: Technology, News