The not so new but still troubling I/O… setup

It’s been so long now that I don’t remember exactly when it happened but at some point (I want to say PT8) Avid then Digidesign changed the I/O Setup that we’d known and loved and replaced it with a new paradigm that many people still struggle with. 
I am in no way claiming to be an expert in this and feel free to refute my information what follows is a walk through of what works for me and hopefully will guide you into your own understanding of this new and wonderful world. 

Where did we come from?

In versions prior to this change the I/O window was simple. You had your inputs, outputs and busses together with inserts and hardware delays. Outputs couldn’t overlap each other, tracks fed busses and everyone was happy. It was a system that worked well and was solid, there were few if any problems.

So what did change and why?

As I said above this was a paradigm shift more about the way in which Pro Tools was being utilised than about any specific issues with the I/O. Large format mixers were being displaced (NOT REPLACED) by mixing ‘in-the-box’ to one extent or another and therefore the output page became less important after all you only had a certain number of monitors no matter what you were doing. At that point even if not physically printing stems within your session you were probably mixing in stems for processing. 

Take for example the FX demo template I posted here. It has a number of sets of audio tracks, feeding busses which feed aux tracks which output to physical outputs. 

For editorial purposes you’ll probably be in a 5.1 cutting room so here you could go one of two ways. Either you could set all of the Aux tracks to output through your Cutting Room output path (do more than one using alt+shift while selecting output), or you could use the new and powerful feature on the bus page of I/O Setup and Map your Aux Outs to your Cutting room 5.1. 

Aren’t they the same thing?

Well yes but now let’s assume that you are sending that session to your (large format) mix room. Your mixer has already established that they will be working in 10 5.1 stems called FX A, B, C etc and so has built their console accordingly. Now instead of doing the Ripple outputs dance (shift+alt+command) they uncheck the box at the bottom of the I/O window that says “Sessions Overwrite I/O Setup” and then remap your outputs from the Cutting Room to their 10, 5.1 outputs. Now instead of PT throwing an error about dropped automation etc the I/O setup Maps to the mix stage outputs flawlessly. 

So I should uncheck Sessions overwrite box?

Yes. Your monitoring is not changing right? That’s the key to this whole thing. Sessions that come to you will add busses as they are required. The Sessions overwrite box relates purely to the hardware inputs and hardware outputs of your system.

If it doesn’t work?

Fix it within the bus page. Pretty much everything that you will need to do is done from the bus page at most (in fact 90% can be done from the Edit/Mix windows)

Greater than and less than 5.1

Good point I’ve used 5.1 as an example not the rule. Mapping is just that though if Editorial has been done in 5.1 you can still map to a 7.1 output. Similarly if you’ve cut in Stereo/ SDDS then the mapping will do the magic in the background. That is not to say you’ll be upmixing/downmixing between formats just that you no longer have to worry about a 5.0 to 5.1 etc. 

What if I don’t want to use aux tracks?

Then don’t. The aux tracks as discussed allow for stem processing, group volume/panning etc  if you don’t need that then you can save yourself some track and bus count i.e. instead of “FXA1” -> “>FX A” -> “FX A>” you’d just have “FXA1” -> “FX A>”.

I have more questions 

Great. Feel free to post comment/drop me an email.