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Remembering Stefan Kudelski, the man whose tape recorder changed filmmaking forever

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stefan kudelski
stefan kudelski

Stefan Kudelski, the Polish engineer whose Nagra III portable tape recorder revolutionized Hollywood and documentary filmmaking, died last week at the age of 83. Unveiled in 1958, the 14-pound Nagra III made it possible for New Wave filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut to shoot in an off-the-cuff, improvisational style, while enabling D.A. Pennebaker to more easily record audio for his seminal Bob Dylan documentary, Don't Look Back. Kudeski's innovations earned him Academy Awards in 1965, 1977, 1978, and 1990, as well as Emmy awards in 1984 and 1986.

"There was virtually no film made from 1961 until the early ’90s that did not use the Nagra," Oscar-winning sound engineer Chris Newman told the New York Times. "We would not have the movies we have today without it."