Thursday, October 13, 2011

I/O Setup

For all of you post production sound folk out there, you can probably skip to the bottom if you don't want to read a very bastardized I/O setup orientation. Everyone else, please keep reading momentarily. When I'm not conquering mutinous microscopic monocytes, my day job is spent working in post-production sound for film and TV, mostly with cartoons. Sometimes I do sound design/editing, which entails watching a silent piece of cartoonage and adding in sound effects like footsteps or funny bells or birds flying by. Other times, I do mixing, which usually means the music, effects, and dialogue are already finished and placed where they need to be, but are completely out of whack with each other. The dialogue needs some echo on it if they're in a cave, or the music is too low, or maybe their footsteps are louder than their conversation. The largest show I work on usually takes me 1-2 days to mix, and those are about 22 minutes long. The program I use to do this is called Protools. It was originally manufactured by a company called Digidesign, but has since been bought out by Avid. That last sentence is not important, I just thought it was a fun little fact.

But the reason I say all of this is because there is a very important tab in the pulldown setup menu for Protools. It's called the I/O setup. For the larger systems, there are tons of different places that you can send your sound. These can be broken down into  Input, Output, and Busses.

The input settings are there so that you know if you plug a mic into whatever hardware you are using, you know how to set up Protools so that you can listen to that. If you plug a mic into input 1, but are monitoring or recording input 2, that doesn't very much help you record that sound. Knowing your input window is good for that.

Next is your outputs, which can get a bit more confusing than inputs, at least where I work. Most of the time, we're only using one input if we're recording something (Extra line of ADR, Cartoon dialogue, foley) so it's easy to keep track of. We'll mix in stereo (2 channel output) or surround (5.1 channel output [5 speakers, Left, Center Right, Left rear, Right rear... Sub woofer is the .1]) so we need to be a lot more vigilant with the output usually than the input. We don't want to be sending the center channel out of the wrong speaker, that'd just be crazy!!!! Seriously, imagine going into a movie theatre and hearing every line of dialogue coming from behind you.

The last thing, and arguably the most important, is the bussing structure. The bussing structure deals with inputs and outputs within your mixing session. This is important if you want to affect different sounds or send the sound around the room. Generally, you'll have a master track for each of the dialogue, music and effects. As you send sounds through those tracks, you'll want to pan the left or right on in the case of surround, front and rear and sub as well. From the original track where the sound exists, you send it through this auxiliary master track, and then from there it goes to a master record track. It could also go to another record track if you want a version of the film without dialogue or without music.

But if you want to affect that sound you need to bus the sound to the master track, and then fade a send to a special effects track, where you will add things like reverb or anything else. From there, it goes back to the master track and joins the unaffected sound before being thrown to the correct output master. It can get complicated.

The reason I bring all of this up is so you understand when they told me here I needed to watch my ins and outs, I was a bit confused. Turns out they mean liquids, and they are very strict. Every milliliter that I drink and every milliliter that I excrete goes down on to a little chart. If those numbers start to drift, that's bad news bears for my kidneys. Fortunately I've been going more often than they seem to be able to wake me up for vitals and antibiotics changes and blood drawings. It's pretty intense, but a bit more intuitive I think than the I/O setup I'm used to.

I kinda trailed off about halfway down because I got caught off guard by a pretty wicked fever. I think I'm done writing for the day, but I have some good ideas for posts in the future. Thanks to everyone who has written to me, it's really nice to hear from all of you but I don't see myself responding in the foreseeable future. The chemo is on hour 27/168, and I'm already feeling less than the average Bulwyf.

1 comment:

Ron Vega said...

Hi Bulwyf,

Great blog, I am moved by the honesty with which you write.

I must say that when I read "I/O Setup" I thought of something very different. I happen to be an industrial/organizational psychologist (abbreviated I/O). I am saddened to see two fields fighting over such a great abbreviation.

My own I/O setup usually happens at parties and follows this script Girl: oh so what do you do?
Me: I'm a psychologist
her: (flirting)Oh I know I'm crazy please don't analyze me (possibly bats eyelids)
me: Oh sorry, no not that kind of psychologist, an I/O psychologist, we study people at work and are concerned with statistical concepts like hierarchical linear modeling and polynomial regression with response surface methodology
her: oh...(walking away) sounds great....

Hopefully your current I/O setup goes better than that!