Facebook just invented a new unit of time

Facebook just invented a new unit of time
Credit: Recklessstudios / Pixabay

In order to make it easier for film, VR and other visual content creators to work with individual frames on screen, Facebook has created a new unit with which to measure time, that divides more neatly than standard units like seconds.

The unit is called a Flick, and it’s equivalent to 1/705600000th of a second. The company explains how this works in relation to common frame rates as follows:

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.

(This can) in integer quantities exactly represent a single frame duration for 24hz, 25hz, 30hz, 48hz, 50hz, 60hz, 90hz, 100hz, 120hz, and also 1/1000 divisions of each.

The idea with Flicks is to easily divide frame rates when working with visual media – something that’s not easily achieved with seconds and nanoseconds.

For example, most movies and TV shows are displayed at 24 frames per second, and each frame is .04166666667 seconds long. If you had to edit your content precisely or figure out exactly how many frames of animation are needed for overlaying on your video, it could get difficult to sync everything up while calculating the duration of these clips in seconds. With flicks, a single frame at 24 fps equates to 29,400,000 flicks. A single frame at 120 fps is a lot less: 5,880,000 flicks – and these are nice, round numbers that are easy to work with.

The unit was created by Christopher Horvath, a former Facebook employee at Oculus’ Story Studio. The company hopes to popularize it and make it an industry standard, but it’s up to professionals to decide if they’d care to use it.

Find out more about flicks in this GitHub repository.

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