Ray Dolby Hollywood Walk of Fame featuring Francis Ford Coppola and Sid Ganis

January 27, 2015 1:03pm
Source: Dolby

During a ceremony dedicating his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame yesterday, Ray Dolby, the late founder of Dolby Laboratories, was remembered as a brilliant inventor whose technology revolutionized entertainment and whose collaborative spirit inspired others to do their best work.

Speakers at the event included legendary director Francis Ford Coppola; Sid Ganis, former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; and Dr. Dolby’s widow, Dagmar.

oppola, whose films include The Godfather trilogy and The Conversation, recalled coming back from the filming of Apocalypse Now with an idea for the kind of 5.1 surround sound he wanted for the movie. “The Dolby company was hand-in-hand in making it happen,” Coppola said.

Ray Dolby “is, to me, a hero because he was an inventor,” Coppola said.

Patents and awards

Dr. Dolby earned more than 50 US patents, was awarded the National Medal of Technology from President Clinton, and was named an honorary officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II. He also received an Oscar®, several Emmy® awards, and a Grammy®.

“Ray Dolby’s impact on the art and science of film and television is incalculable,” said Ganis, a longtime Hollywood producer. “Ray and his Dolby company have literally transformed the entertainment experience over the past 50 years.”

Dr. Dolby is one of a select few technical innovators honored on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where most of the more than 2,500 stars commemorate entertainers, directors, or studio executives. Among the other inventors on the Walk of Fame are Thomas Alva Edison, who invented the motion picture camera, film manufacturer George Eastman, and Technicolor® inventor Herbert Kalmus.

Early success

Dolby was a talented engineer from an early age. At age 16, he joined Ampex, where he helped develop the first practical video tape recorder. A graduate of Stanford and Cambridge universities, he later worked in India for the United Nations and invented a groundbreaking solution to the hiss that bedeviled magnetic tape recordings.

With a patent for Dolby® noise reduction, he started Dolby Laboratories in London in 1965. His noise reduction technology, Dolby NR, was soon widely adopted by the music industry. In the 1970s, the company started a long association with the film industry.

In those days, film sound was mono and the audio quality little better than a standard telephone call. A number of studios adopted Dolby noise reduction to improve the sound of the mono soundtracks. But a bigger breakthrough came with the development of Dolby Stereo® in 1974. When George Lucas used the technology for the blockbuster Star Wars, cinema sound changed forever.

Dolby Stereo was followed by a string of technological improvements to film sound, including Dolby spectral recording, known as Dolby SR, one of the innovations that Dr. Dolby was most proud of. His company brought surround sound to movies with Dolby Digital® and Dolby Surround 7.1. Dolby’s latest cinema sound technology is Dolby Atmos®, introduced in 2012. More than 230 feature films have been announced as Dolby Atmos titles.

Stay to the end

Dr. Dolby’s widow, Dagmar, said Dr. Dolby was proud to see the Dolby name and logo on theatre marquees and film credits. “In every film the Dolby family saw, we had to stay ’til the very end when the Dolby logo appears, and to appreciate the many roles required in making a film.”

After the ceremony, Dolby President and CEO Kevin Yeaman talked about the impact Dr. Dolby had on many individuals. Customers and partners often talk to him about Dr. Dolby’s “brilliance and his integrity,” Yeaman said. Among the Dolby staff, “Ray has inspired so many people to do their best work.”

Mrs. Dolby, a native of Germany, recalled the first time she saw the Hollywood Walk of Fame during her first visit to the United States in 1967. “Never would I have imagined finding his name on this sidewalk in the company of the entertainment stars of the world.”

“If he were here today, he would indeed have a big smile on his face. [He would] look at this new star and say, ‘That’s quite a surprise,’” Mrs. Dolby said.

She imagined her four granddaughters visiting the star over the years and hoped it would inspire others “to relentlessly work at solving tough problems.”