Facebook’s Flick And Its Use


Facebook has introduced a new unit of time that’s intended to make it easier for developers to sync up video and audio frames. It’s called the flick, which is a portmanteau that condenses the phrase “frame-tick.”

When your devices play video, they show a particular number of frames every second. As an example, the current standard for video games is 60 frames per second, which means that each individual frame is on the screen for 16.667 milliseconds.

That isn’t a particularly easy figure to work with, but awkward numbers are common when considering various frame rates. The flick aims to remove some of this complexity and room for error by eliminating the need to use rounded-up decimals or fractions.

A single flick is defined as 1/705,600,000 of a second, or the smallest unit of time that’s larger than a nanosecond. At 60 frames per second, each frame appears for 11,760,000 flicks, which is an easier figure to work with than 16.667 milliseconds.

While the average person may never need to use a flick, the unit could improve their media experience by making it easier for programmers to ensure that the refresh rate of a device syncs appropriately with the content, be it video footage, a game, a website, or an audio clip.


And why is that useful?

As a hint, here’s a list of numbers into which 1/705,600,000 divides evenly: 1/8, 1/16, 1/22.05, 1/24, 1/25, 1/30, 1/32, 1/44.1, 1/48, 1/50, 1/60, 1/90, 1/100, 1/120. Notice a pattern?

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.

Even if you don’t work in media production, some of those numbers probably look familiar. That’s because they’re all frame rates or frequencies used in encoding or showing things like films and music. 24 frames per second, 120 hertz TVs, 44.1 KHz sample rate audio.

Many of these fractions resolve into inconvenient decimal series, necessitating shorthand or estimations. For instance, the 1/24th of a second around which the entire film industry is based on is equal to 0.0416666666666666… on and on forever (even attempting to use nanoseconds to represent these durations ends up creating fractions of nanoseconds). So it may be abbreviated for convenience to 0.04167. Easier to remember, but not numerically exact, and who knows when that “extra” value might break something?


To conclude, Flick will mostly turn out to be particularly useful in video and audio production, and for programmers. It’s slightly longer than a nanosecond, and it’ll allow eliminating the inconvenience associated with using the decimals and help one represent the exact value without any approximate estimation.