Stefan Kudelski, inventor of the first portable professional sound recorder, died Saturday in Switzerland at the age of 84. Word of his death came in a statement from the Kudelski Group, the company he founded. Kudelski created the Nagra (meaning “will record” in his native Polish) in 1951, revolutionizing the world of audio recording for filmmakers. The device, weighing between 8 and 20 pounds, was “one of the tools that made the French New Wave possible, by allowing the young directors in the late 50s and early 60s … to shoot a scene almost anywhere they could think of shooting one,” Randy Thom, director of sound design for Skywalker Sound, told All Things Considered host Melissa Block. Kudelski sold the device to Radio Luxembourg, Italy’s s RAI and the BBC as well as ABC, NBC and CBS in the U.S., according to the Nagra Audio website. Kudelski went on to win five Oscars and two Emmys for his contributions to sound engineering. He’s pictured at the left with Maggie Smith and Maureen Stapleton at the 1978 Academy Awards. In 1983, Kudelski received the John Grierson International Gold Medal, joining luminaries of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers that include Louis Lumière, Thomas Edison, Lee de Forest, George Eastman, Walt Disney, Samuel Warner, Léon Gaumont, Ray Dolby and Vladimir Zworkyin. The Cinema Audio Society plans a tribute to Kudelski at its 49th Annual CAS Awards on February 16th in Los Angeles.
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