Facebook Invents A New Unit Of Time With 'Flicks' For Video Creators


Engineers at Oculus, Facebook's virtual reality division, have invented a new unit of time. No, we are not kidding. For what possible purpose, you ask? Called a flick (frame-tick), the new time measurement is supposed to help media creators and anyone else involved with video to measure an individual frame duration for 24Hz, 25Hz, 30Hz, 48Hz, 50Hz, 60Hz, 90Hz, 100Hz, and 120Hz, and also 1/1000 divisions of each.

"This makes it suitable for use via std::chrono::duration and std::ratio for doing timing work against the system high resolution clock, which is in nanoseconds, but doesn't get slightly out of sync when doing common frame rates," the project's GitHub page states.

Put more simply, flicks allow whole unit measurements, rather than a long series of numbers of a decimal point that could potentially go on forever. Take 1/24th of a second, for example. That calculates to 0.0416666... and on and on and on. It can be abbreviated to 0.04167, but what using flicks as a measurement of time, these fractional numbers get turned into whole numbers for easier frame syncing.

It's also worth mentioning that a flick is the smallest unit of time that is larger than a nanosecond.

"When working creating visual effects for film, television, and other media, it is common to run simulations or other time-integrating processes which subdivide a single frame of time into a fixed, integer number of subdivisions. It is handy to be able to accumulate these subdivisions to create exact 1-frame and 1-second intervals, for a variety of reasons," Facebook explains on GitHub.

"Knowing that you should never, ever use floating point representations for accumulated, simulated time (lest your temporal accuracy degrade over time), the std::chrono time tools in C++ are ideal. However, the highest usable resolution, nanoseconds, doesn't evenly divide common film & media framerates. This was the genesis of this unit," Facebook continues.

Precisely, a flick is 1/705,600,000 of a second. 1/24 frames per second is equivalent to 29,400,000 flicks, 1/30 fps is 23,520,000 flicks, 1/120 fps is 5,880,000 flicks, and, well, there are plenty more examples listed at the source link.