Sometimes it's easy to forget that Facebook, as a company, is meant to be an innovator in fields beyond surveillance. But the announcement that it has created an entirely new unit of time is a nice reminder that the enormous company, which owns both WhatsApp and Oculus VR, is more than just one of the largest spy apparatuses in history.
The new unit of time - announced on Twitter and available via Github - is known as Flicks, and was specifically created to be used by visual effects artists working in the mediums of film, TV and video.
We've launched Flicks, a unit of time, slightly larger than a nanosecond that exactly subdivides media frame rates and sampling frequencies. https://t.co/w9SDBznXRE
— Facebook Open Source (@fbOpenSource) January 22, 2018
See, it's often necessary to get super granular with the timecodes when working in visual effects. Instead of operating in seconds, VFX artists, producers and programmers will sometimes work in nanoseconds. But working in nanoseconds can result in some messy maths and coding, as they aren't easily converted to standard video frame rates. So Facebook developed the Flicks unit of time which, according to its Github page, "is the smallest time unit which is LARGER than a nanosecond, and can in integer quantities exactly represent a single frame duration" of film.
Flicks were originally suggested by Christopher Horvath, a VFX Artist and Oculus employee, in a Facebook post way back in 2016.
It's interesting to note this unit of time was created by an employee of of Oculus's Story Studio, a VR-focused film studio, and was released through the Oculus VR's Github repository - not through Facebook itself. VR filmmaking is still in its infancy. Compared to traditional filmmaking, it's still at The Great Train Robbery stage. There haven't been any transcendent pieces of work from VR that radically alter how audiences and artists approach the medium. There's been no Citizen Kane yet. But Flicks is proof that the VR filmmaking studio is at least trying to move towards a cool new future.