Q&A: Ray Dolby

2012-39 BKLOT Dolby Ray Dolby H

Dolby in his home workshop in 1982, during the early stages of Dolby Spectral Recording (SR).

Carolyn Giardina, THR's tech editor and an HPA board member, talks to cinema's legendary Master of Sound.

Renowned engineer and Dolby Laboratories founder Ray Dolby, 79, was responsible for many seminal cinema-sound advancements, including his namesake SR noise-reduction system. This year, he'll receive top honors at the Hollywood Post Alliance Awards, which recognize technical excellence in postproduction. Here, Dolby talks about the next wave of cinematic sound.

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: How will the "theater of the future" sound?

Ray Dolby: I would expect the experience to be even more immersive. As object-based sound formats evolve, there will be a greater need to improve playback equipment. We need to remain creative in placing speakers in the right places, to keep the visual focus on the screen while leveraging speakers' directional capabilities. There are challenges with larger venues that may require unique technologies. With the advent of digital-cinema server and network technologies, there may be less equipment in the projection booth, though much of the complexity will shift to integrated components as well as serving files from the cloud.

THR: Some industry leaders have stated that 3D is the greatest change in exhibition since the advent of sound. Do you agree?

Dolby: The primary issue is how to make 3D just as comfortable to watch as 2D. The 3D experience has been making many incremental improvements over its history, and I believe the key to a good 3D experience is using the tool to tell the story without being distracting.

THR: When did creating an immersive sound system like Dolby Atmos become a goal of yours?

Dolby: For years we've considered ways to deliver more fidelity to the cinema audio experience. Film sound design has reached a point where it can unlock the potential of all speakers around the room individually and from above the audience as well. The Dolby Atmos furthers the potential for where to position sounds in the mix and is fundamentally committed to transparently transmitting the soundscape.

2012 HPA: Nov. 1, Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles

  • Charles S. Swartz Award: Ray Dolby, inventor and founder of Dolby Laboratories
  • Engineering Excellence Award:
    Cinnafilm -- Tachyon Crossroads Systems -- StrongBox
    Dolby Laboratories -- Atmos
    Sony Electronics -- F65 camera
  • Judges Award for Creativity and Innovation: Gradient Interactive for its previsualization product Sandbox