Facebook has created a new unit of time called “flicks” – and it’s actually pretty smart

Facebook has announced that it’s created a new unit of time called “flicks”.

Facebook has created a new unit of time called “flicks” - and it’s actually pretty smart

As the company explains on its GitHub page, one flick is exactly 1/705600000 of a second, making it smaller than all existing units of time except for a nanosecond, which represents 1/1000000000 of a second.

So what’s Facebook – or more specifically, Facebook-owned Oculus VR – up to? It might sound incredibly arrogant that the social network has taken ownership of something as fundamental as time – especially when it has control of many other aspects of our lives – but there’s a lot of common sense to its decision, at least within the worlds of video editing and visual effects.

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The reason that a flick is not divisible by a nanosecond (it’s approximately 1.417 of a nanosecond) is so that it can fix a problem with existing units of time, which do not typically divide evenly into common frame rates.

“When 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,” the page explains. “It is handy to be able to accumulate these subdivisions to create exact 1-frame and 1-second intervals, for a variety of reasons.”

So what a flick can do in whole numbers, that a nanosecond doesn’t, is represent a single frame duration in popular frame rates including 24hz, 25hz, 30hz, 48hz, 50hz, 60hz, 90hz, 100hz, 120hz, and indeed 1/1000 divisions of each.

So why the name “flick”? As The Verge explains, this is a portmanteau of the words term “frame-tick”, which is essentially what it enables. Neat, huh?

Naturally, the news was met with skepticism. Twitter user Brandon Wirtz was quick to point out that many frame rates are not in fact whole numbers to start with (see tweet below).

Still, presumably the new unit works more consistently than nanoseconds, or there’d be no point in inventing it at all. It’ll be interesting to see if ticks are widely adopted, unlike Swatch’s ‘Internet time’ concept, which was first pitched in 1998 but still hasn’t caught on.

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