Mp3 developer recognized in Hollywood for his visionary work

Karlheinz Brandenburg
Prof. Karlheinz Brandenburg is honored by the prestigious Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE). (Image: Fraunhofer IDMT/Theiss)

Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers recognizes the achievements of Karlheinz Brandenburg

Walt Disney, George Lucas, Samuel L. Warner – and Karlheinz Brandenburg. The scientist, researcher and entrepreneur from Erlangen joins the ranks of renowned award winners who have received an award from the prestigious Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE). The awards gala was held on October 19, 2023 in Hollywood.

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Brandenburg wrote history in Erlangen. The visionary research carried out not only by him but by virtually the entire founding team of the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (IIS) fundamentally changed the media landscape. Without his pioneering work, it would have been virtually unthinkable that you could carry music, audiobooks or podcasts with you wherever you go. The foundations for this media revolution were laid in the doctoral thesis that he wrote at the Faculty of Engineering at FAU in 1989.

He continued his fundamental research later on at the Fraunhofer IIS together with the core team of mp3 developers, Ernst Eberlein, Heinz Gerhäuser, Bernhard Grill, Jürgen Herre, Harald Popp and Thomas Sporer. The result: audiocodecs, that we are still using today, especially MPEG-1 Layer 3 (mp3) and MPEG-2 Advanced Audio Coding (AAC).

He has now been awarded the Digital Processing Medal from SMTPE for these accomplishments. The award recognizes technical achievements in the digital processing of content for movies, games, television and other digital media. The professional organization SMTPE consists of media professionals, technologists and engineers. It has set itself the goal of encouraging innovation and thereby driving forward the technology sector. In the past, many great names have been recognized for various services relating to the media sector, including James Cameron, Thomas A. Edison, George Eastman and Peter Jackson.

Brandburg is pleased that his work has been recognized far beyond the audio sector. “SMPTE’s decision to recognize the early work shows that the significance of mp3 and AAC goes far beyond the area of technology of audio signal processing. It is a great honor. As always, I would like to thank all the others who also contributed to this development.”

Brandenburg, who was born in Erlangen, is still fascinated by audio even today. After several years as the head of department at the Fraunhofer IIS, he became the director of the Frauenhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology IDMT in Ilmenau, in Thuringia. He has also been a professor at the Technical University in Ilmenau for a number of years. As the managing director of Brandenburg Labs GmbH, he is continuing to drive forward audio innovation.