1919 - 14.7.2000
Alex Thomson: At one time there was only the Mitchell slip head (I bet that statement will produce a letter or five) which used graphite as the slipping agent and was unsatisfying in that it never locked off properly and had no levelling device.
It was Ron Ford who introduced the fluid in the fluid head and the engineering to go with it, but what I think was more important was Ron's introduction, in partnership with Harry Baker, of the tall and short metal tripods. Before this marvellous innovation we were obliged to use wooden Mitchell legs that had a twin set of knurled pieces of metal which one twisted clockwise or counter clock to tighten or release. Sure as eggs they would not tighten together at the same tension so that when you went to release the leg one bit would go before the other causing an imbalance and if you weren't careful could end up as a "four beers please Miss" situation, the worse offender however were the baby legs which were tightened (I use the term loosely, pun intended) by a butterfly screw which was too small to do the job but at Mitchells they knew this because they drilled a series of holes down each leg so that you could slot something in to stop it sliding, generally a nail, which if you weren't careful would end up giving the “strides” [British slang for “trousers”] a nasty seeing to.
From Mick Mason Assoc BSC who took over running RonFord Ltd in the 1990’s:
I first met Ron in the mid 1950's: he was HOD Camera Department, Warwick films at MGM Borehamwood for producers Irving Allen and Cubby Broccoli.
The equipment was all Arriflex mainly 2B's and 120 Blimps, Moy Geared Heads, "Arri Friction Heads" on wooden legs and I think a Macalister Dolly.
I worked on a couple of these Warwick Films as Clapper Boy, rented out from ABPC Ltd. Studios at Elstree. Both films starred Anita Ekberg and Victor Mature, Bluey Hill was the first assistant Director (Zarak 1956 directed by Terence Young photographed by Cyril J. Knowles BSC, Ted Moore BSC & John Wilcox BSC) another with John Gilling directing (Interpol 1957 photographed by Ted Moore BSC).
Ron was always complaining about the Arri Friction Head and how the engineering of it was so indifferent. In my time I must have pulled these awful things apart, cleaned and re-greased the friction pads, re-adjusted and got them as near perfect as one could, only to find a few weeks later they had gone back to their lumpy, gritty state. I take my hat off to the operators of that time, very often with a zoom lens mounted on the head; they did fantastic operating on this awful piece of equipment. Ron Ford with this knowledge, and Harry Baker then of Tikki Engineering fame, took it upon themselves to develop the fluid 15 Head. Any spare money from Ronford Hire went into the development of the proto-type. I believe the fluid used at this time was German made. The Engineering was developed at Braziers Dairy, Bushey and the rest is history. [P.M.: This Patented design was internationally recognised and as a result received a Technical Oscar.]
The BAFTA Plaque that we, as a company, dedicated to Ron, reads "Technical Innovator" this describes Ron perfectly.
[In 1970 MGM Studios at Borehamwood closed its doors for the last time & Ronford Baker Ltd, moved to Shepperton Studios were we happily stayed for 27 years. During this time Ron sold his interest in Ronford Engineering, the creators of the Ronford fluid heads & legs, to Harry Baker his manager & designer & with the money brought a pub in Wales.]
I knew Ron for 45 years, since I started in the industry, and he never changed - popping Rennies constantly, smoking cigarettes and cigarillos and in years gone by running some of the most fashionable cars of the time. Always a gentlemen, I stress “gentle.” After knowing Ron some 38 years, I had the great honour to be asked to manage Ronford Ltd, at Shepperton in the 90's, I jumped at the chance. I considered it a great honour to be asked to run his company. I will miss him. I always felt more like a son to Ron than a fellow Technician .
MICK MASON, Associate BSC