Famed Engineer Dead at 80 — His Name Became an Everyday Term and His Work Changed How We Experience Movies

Sep 13, 2013  •  Post A Comment

An engineer whose work had a profound impact on the entertainment industry and on people who watch movies or listen to music has died. Variety reports that Ray Dolby, who founded Dolby Laboratories and brought sweeping innovations in sound engineering, died Thursday in San Francisco. He was 80.

The report notes that Dolby suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and was diagnosed in July with leukemia.

“Dolby pioneered the noise-reducing and surround sound technology used throughout the entertainment industry,” the story notes.

Hollywood sound professionals hailed Dolby’s inventions as the gateway to a new era of motion picture sound.

Said Michael Minkler, lead re-recording mixer at Todd-AO Studios: “‘Star Wars’ changed sound forever. That was the pivotal moment in movie sound. In 1977, when we mixed ‘Star Wars,’ there’s literally no way a movie of that magnitude was ever going to make it without Dolby Noise Reduction.”

Dolby’s innovations set new standards worldwide, and his company became synonymous with modern movie sound quality.

Said his son, filmmaker and novelist Tom Dolby: “Though he was an engineer at heart, my father’s achievements in technology grew out of a love of music and the arts. He brought his appreciation of the artistic process to all of his work in film and audio recording.”

Wylie Stateman, co-founder of Soundelux. added: “Dolby didn’t just create the playing field, he flattened it. Meaning we were free to explore to our wildest dreams but safe in knowing there were standards.

“You weren’t designing sound for one theater,” Stateman added. “You were designing sound for every theater on Earth.”

Both Dolby and his company received a string of honors for their contributions to the entertainment business. Among them, Dolby Laboratories, established in 1965, has received 10 Academy Awards and 13 Emmys, the report notes.

“Among his many honors, [Dolby] personally received the National Medal of Technology from President Clinton in 1997; the Order of Officer of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth II in 1987; an Oscar statuette (1989) and an Academy Plaque; several Emmys; and a Grammy,” the story adds.

In 2012 the Kodak Theater, home of the Oscars, was renamed the Dolby Theater. Its ballroom, which traditionally hosts the post-ceremony Governors Ball, was renamed the Ray Dolby ballroom.

“Sound pros still marvel that such an honor went to one of their own,” the story notes.

Dolby parlayed his innovations into financial success, and was said to be worth $2.4 billion at the time of his death.

ray-dolby.jpgRay Dolby


  1. From this mans innovations, I have spent hours creating and out right entertaining myself in the production studio.
    Thank you sir for the many smiles you gave me and wows! that you gave to our audiences.
    True pioneers of any given profession don’t come around everyday.
    My deepest condolenses to your family.

  2. I have to stop myself with a half-hearted laugh every time I think of honoring him with a moment of silence.
    RIP, Mr. Dolby – your effect on the worlds of audio and motion pictures was immeasurable.

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