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Stefan Kudelski, Inventor of Nagra Recorder, Passes Away

Stefan Kudelski poses with the Ampex Nagra VPR-5 portable recorder in an undated photograph. The devices were used to record the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico.

Photo courtesy of The Kudelski Group

Stefan Kudelski (pictured)—inventor of the Nagra, the first portable professional recorder—passed away on January 26 in Switzerland. Kudelski, 84, was the founder of the Kudelski Group.

In 1983, Kudelski entered the hall of fame of motion picture and television by receiving 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.

In the course of his career, he was awarded numerous distinctions including Academy Awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1965, 1977, 1978 and 1990; and two Emmy Awards from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 1984 and 1986. Since 1986, he was also Doctor Honoris Causa from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL).

“The Nagra recorder was the mainstay of production recording for over 50 years, and revolutionized both production and post-production workflows,” says Cinema Audio Society President David E. Fluhr. “The worldwide sound community mourns the passing of Stefan Kudelski. It is fitting that as we award the latest in Technical Achievement for production and post-production sound, we pause and remember this pioneer of the sound community.”

The CAS states that the tribute will include rare video footage of an interview with Kudelski by CAS member Omar Milano, as well as personal recollections from Tomlinson Holman, CAS, who won an Academy Award for his THX loudspeaker system. Holman visited many times with Kudelski in Switzerland and corresponded with him since 1983.

CAS Career Achievement Honoree Chris Newman says, “I used the Nagra in all iterations—from the Nagra III to the Nagra IVs in analog, to the Nagra D and D2 in digital. The Nagra III absolutely revolutionized the way we made films in the late ’50s and early ’60s.”

From left: Maggie Smith, Stefan Kudelski, and Maureen Stapleton at the 1978 Academy Awards.

Photo courtesy of The Kudelski Group

The 49th Annual CAS Awards will be held on February 16, 2013, in the Crystal Ballroom of the historic Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Besides Technical Achievement Awards in production and post-production, awards for Outstanding Sound Mixing will be presented in six categories. During the Awards, special honors will go to Chris Newman as the CAS Career Achievement Honoree, and the CAS Filmmaker Award will be presented to Jonathan Demme.

Visit the Cinema Audio Society at

Read NPR’s obituary for Stefan Kudelski.