Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Stefan Kudelski Feb. 27, 1929 - Feb. 2, 2013 His Nagra Recorder Revolutionized Film

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Stefan Kudelski Feb. 27, 1929 - Feb. 2, 2013 His Nagra Recorder Revolutionized Film

Article excerpt

Stefan Kudelski, the inventor of the first professional-quality portable tape recorder, which revolutionized Hollywood moviemaking and vastly expanded the reach of documentarians, independent filmmakers and eavesdroppers on both sides in the Cold War, died Feb. 2 in Switzerland. He was 83.

His death was announced by the Kudelski Group, the Swiss electronics engineering firm he founded in 1951. No cause was given.

The Polish-born Mr. Kudelski was an engineering student at a Swiss university in 1951 when he patented his first portable recording device, the Nagra I, a reel-to-reel tape recorder, about the size of a shoe box and weighing 11 pounds, that produced sound as good as that of most studio recorders, which were phone-booth- size. Radio stations in Switzerland were his first customers.

The bigger breakthrough came seven years later when Mr. Kudelski introduced a high-quality tape recorder that could synchronize sound with the frames on a reel of film. Mr. Kudelski's 1958 recorder, the Nagra III, weighed about 14 pounds and freed a new generation of filmmakers from the conventions and high cost of studio production.

Along with the newly developed portable 16 mm camera, the Nagra recorder became an essential tool for the on-location, often improvisational techniques of New Wave directors like Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, and U.S. documentarians like D.A. Pennebaker, who used the Nagra to record the 1965 Bob Dylan tour featured in his classic film "Don't Look Back," released in 1967.

In various interviews, Mr. Pennebaker, Mr. Godard and the late Truffaut have all credited Mr. Kudelski with helping to make possible the informality and journalistic realism of their work.

Mr. Kudelski received Academy Awards for his technical contributions to filmmaking in 1965, 1977, 1978 and 1990 and Emmy Awards in 1984 and 1986. …

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