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Ray Dolby

Tuesday, 17th September 2013

Before completing a notable academic career, he had been a member of the team at Ampex who developed the first video recorder. Based in London in the mid 60s he turned his attention to magnetic tape recording noise reduction and the Dolby-A System appeared in 1966 and and found wide acceptance by the music recording industry. Other standards followed and the use of Dolby-B on audio cassettes made him a household name by the early 70s. Dolby Laboratories was founded in London and remained the company HQ until he moved the parent company to his native San Fancisco. The early 70s saw Dr Dolby turn his attention to Cinema Sound and improvement of photographic optical sound recording and reproduction. In 1975 this resulted in the introduction of Stereo Variable Area (SVA), the system that became known as Dolby Stereo, the multichannel reproduction aspect of which took theatrical ‘surround sound’ throughout the world and into the home on video cassette. In 1986, further research and development saw Spectral Recording (SR) providing even greater noise reduction, increased dynamic range, improved frequency response and lower distortion, the benefits of which gave new life to all analogue aspects of the film sound signal chain. Dolby gave us SR.D in 1991, a six-track system of recording digital sound photographically on 35mm film and reproducing it optically in cinemas. By using the area between sprocket holes for the digital data SR.D did not disturb the established film format and provided an easy transition into digital film sound. The company that bears his name successfully continues his pioneering approach into far wider aspects of media and communications. Recognition of his individual achievements came in the form of numerous honours and awards. The citation for his AMPS Honorary Fellowship ended with the words: “On behalf of all engaged in Motion Picture Sound Recording and Reproduction throughout the world, and from cinema audiences everywhere, we at AMPS say thank you.”

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