Facebook and Oculus just defined a new unit of time

Eric Abent - Jan 22, 2018
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Facebook and Oculus just defined a new unit of time

As the third most-visited website in the world, Facebook’s influence is pretty far reaching these days. Its ambitions may be too big even for a company its size, though, as along with Oculus, it has defined a new unit of time called a “flick.” Yes, you heard right: Facebook has become so gigantic and monolithic that it is now attempting to influence time itself.

Jokes aside, the word “flick” is actually short for “frame-tick” in this case. Facebook Open Source shared the news on its Twitter account today, pointing to a GitHub library that was published last week. It’s in that library’s Read Me document that we discover just what a flick is and why its definition was necessary.

Simply put, a flick is a unit of time that is minuscule – nearly the size of a nanosecond. That is, perhaps, the flick’s most important property, as Facebook says that the flick is the “smallest time unit which is LARGER than a nanosecond,” noting that a flick is exactly 1/705600000 of a second. The name is meant to have specific ties to film, as flicks can be used to “exactly represent a single frame duration for 24hz, 25hz, 30hz, 48hz, 50hz, 60hz, 90hz, 100hz, 120hz, and also 1/1000 divisions of each.”

What was the motivation behind defining the flick? It’s meant to fill the gaps that using nanoseconds can create when you’re measuring frame duration for the purposes of adding visual effects to film and television. In using nanoseconds, you can’t exactly divide common film and television frame rates, Facebook explains, while using flicks allows you to sync frame rates exactly using whole integers.

It’s a bit above my head, but if you’re well-versed in C++ and you’re used to using std::chrono time tools for measuring frame duration, then it sounds flicks might be just what you need. You can grab the flicks library – and read more about what flicks measure – over on the GitHub page for the project.


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