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Facebook Is Reinventing How We Measure Time Itself to Make Visual Effects Work Easier

Facebook is taking a different approach to solving a problem faced by video editors, visual effects artists, and programmers: they're inventing a new unit of time. Hopefully, this will help solve a peculiar issue.

The fundamental problem is this: visual effects artists, programmers, and the like often need to work with very small time scales, so small that they often work in nanoseconds. The problem is that nanoseconds don't divide nicely into standard frame rates or audio sampling rates, which in turn leads to some tricky issues when coding and working on such projects, with frame rates drifting slightly out of sync with timing clocks. To solve this, Facebook introduced the "flick," or 1/705,600,000 of a second. The math savvy will notice that this is simply the reciprocal of the least common multiple of all of the common frame rates and sampling rates, but the beauty is that this means every frame rate and sampling rate included in this calculation is now represented by an exact integer when given in flicks. This makes the flick the smallest unit of time larger than a nanosecond with that property. The benefit is that it eliminates rounding errors that propagate over time and keeps everything exactly aligned, which would theoretically eliminate a lot of headaches for its users.

Lead image by Pixabay user Felix_Hu, used under Creative Commons.

[via Gizmodo]

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Joe Black's picture

"1/705,600,000 of a second. The math savvy will notice that this is simply the reciprocal of the least common multiple of all of the common frame rates".

Ya totally noticed this. First thing i saw. What's 1+1 again ?

Stephen Kampff's picture

This is genius! I wonder if it will ever be implemented by syncing software (Red Giant's Pluraleyes etc).

Alex Cooke's picture

I'm no video guy, but what's weird to me is that this is such an incredibly obvious solution from a mathematical perspective. It makes me wonder why it wasn't implemented long ago.

Stephen Kampff's picture

Usually the fix has been to warp the audio slightly, removing the drift. It's usually unnoticeable and it doesn't require creating a mathematical standard – so I can sort of see why this has worked thus far. Can't wait to see what Facebook are able to create with this though!

Dan Janjilian's picture

Yes, indeed, they "invented" a new time measuring unit. the only thing no one in the news articles and speculations (at least the official ones) never bothers to ask is how and why this unit should be implemented.
Not that it's completely useless, but the application range is pretty limited. No one's going to change the time-based principles of anything or a gimmick.