Flicks: Facebook’s New Way of Measuring Time

The 1/705600000 second chunks are helpful in media playback and digital video and audio

Will Flicks make their job easier?
omgimages/iStock

Facebook just created a new way to measure time, but you won’t be seeing it on your Apple Watch.

The social network introduced Flicks, which are aimed at simplifying the process for programmers and developers working with media.

One Flick is equal to 1/705600000 second, which is slightly larger than a nanosecond. However, Flicks are more useful when dealing with media playback and digital video and audio, because media frame rates can be expressed in Flicks in much rounder, more divisible numbers than nanoseconds can.

Facebook said on the Github page for Flicks, “When working creating visual effects for film, television and other media, it is common to run simulations or other time-integrating processes that 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 one-frame and one-second intervals, for a variety of reasons.”

Stephen Shankland of CNET provided a more detailed example of how Flicks will be helpful to those working with media: “In a game that displays at 60 frames per second, software gets a time budget of 16.667 milliseconds (rounded to the nearest microsecond) to figure out how to paint thousands of pixels worth of moving aliens, race tracks, tanks or trolls onto the screen. It’s not just games: Web browsers, word processors and other software need to pay attention to these slices of time to make sure scrolling and animations stay smooth. But it’s a pain talking about 16.667 milliseconds, and even with slivers of time a billionth of a second long, programs can suffer from rounding errors. The Flick is 1/705,600,000th of a second, which Facebook concluded is a convenient foundation for many different measurements. For 60-fps refresh rates, for example, a computer has 11,760,000 Flicks to create each new screen frame.”

To illustrate how the rounded, easily divisible numbers ease the pain for programmers and developers, Facebook provided the following chart on the Flicks Github page:

  • 1/24 fps frame: 29,400,000 flicks
  • 1/25 fps frame: 28,224,000 flicks
  • 1/30 fps frame: 23,520,000 flicks
  • 1/48 fps frame: 14,700,000 flicks
  • 1/50 fps frame: 14,112,000 flicks
  • 1/60 fps frame: 11,760,000 flicks
  • 1/90 fps frame: 7,840,000 flicks
  • 1/100 fps frame: 7,056,000 flicks
  • 1/120 fps frame: 5,880,000 flicks
  • 1/8000 fps frame: 88,200 flicks
  • 1/16000 fps frame: 44,100 flicks
  • 1/22050 fps frame: 32,000 flicks
  • 1/24000 fps frame: 29,400 flicks
  • 1/32000 fps frame: 22,050 flicks
  • 1/44100 fps frame: 16,000 flicks
  • 1/48000 fps frame: 14,700 flicks
  • 1/88200 fps frame: 8,000 flicks
  • 1/96000 fps frame: 7,350 flicks
  • 1/192000 fps frame: 3,675 flicks