[whatwg] What is the purpose of timeupdate?

Philip Jägenstedt philipj at opera.com
Fri Nov 6 01:44:24 PST 2009

On Thu, 05 Nov 2009 21:11:15 +0100, Andrew Scherkus  
<scherkus at chromium.org> wrote:

> On Thu, Nov 5, 2009 at 6:10 AM, Brian Campbell <
> brian.p.campbell at dartmouth.edu> wrote:
>> On Nov 5, 2009, at 1:17 AM, Andrew Scherkus wrote:
>>  On Fri, Oct 30, 2009 at 10:18 PM, Brian Campbell <
>>> Brian.P.Campbell at dartmouth.edu> wrote:
>>> As a multimedia developer, I am wondering about the purpose of the
>>> timeupdate event on media elements. On first glance, it would appear  
>>> that
>>> this event would be useful for synchronizing animations, bullets,  
>>> captions,
>>> UI, and the like. The spec specifies a rate of 4 to 66 Hz for these  
>>> events.
>>> The high end of this (30 or more Hz) is pretty reasonable for  
>>> displaying
>>> things in sync with the video. The low end, however, 4 Hz, is far too  
>>> slow
>>> for most types of synchronization; everything feels laggy at this  
>>> frequency.
>>> From my testing on a two year old MacBook Pro, Firefox is giving me  
>>> about 25
>>> timeupdate events per second, while Safari and Chrome are giving me  
>>> the bare
>>> minimum, of 4 timeupdate events per second.
>>> At 4 timeupdate events per second, it isn't all that useful. I can  
>>> replace
>>> it with setInterval, at whatever rate I want, query the time, and get  
>>> the
>>> synchronization I need, but that makes the timeupdate event seem to be
>>> redundant. At 25 timeupdate events per second, it is reasonably  
>>> useful, and
>>> can be used to synchronize various things to the video.
>>> So, I'm wondering if there's a purpose for the timeupdate event that  
>>> I'm
>>> missing. If it is intended for any sort of synchronization with the  
>>> video, I
>>> think it should be improved to give better guarantees on the interval
>>> between updates, or just dropped from the spec; it's not useful enough  
>>> in
>>> its current form. To improve it, the maximum interval between updates  
>>> could
>>> be reduced to about 40 ms, or perhaps the interval could be made  
>>> settable so
>>> the author could control how often they want to get the event.
>>> -- Brian
>>> I believe it's a convenience over using setTimeout/setInterval +  
>>> polling
>>> to determine whether playback has progressed ie., for rendering your  
>>> own
>>> playback progress bar.  I've also seen it been used as a signal to copy
>>> frames into <canvas> on Firefox, however if timeupdate frequency !=  
>>> fps of
>>> video you either miss frames or paint too much.
>>> I don't think timeupdate today is very useful for doing anything  
>>> beyond a
>>> progress bar or other simple synchronized animations.
>> Right. That's what I figured the point is; I just wanted to check to  
>> make
>> sure I wasn't missing something.
>> As implemented by Safari and Chrome (which is the minimum rate allowed  
>> by
>> the spec), it's not really useful for that purpose, as 4 updates per  
>> second
>> makes any sort of synchronization feel jerky and laggy. If it were done  
>> at
>> the frame rate of the video, or perhaps with a minimum of 25 frames per
>> second, it would be much more useful. Even at a minimum of 15 frames per
>> second, you would still be able to get some sorts of useful  
>> synchronization,
>> though animations synchronized wouldn't feel as smooth as they could.
>>  Would something like <video> firing events for every frame rendered  
>> help
>>> you out?  This would help also fix the <canvas> over/under painting  
>>> issue
>>> and improve synchronization.
>> Yes, this would be considerably better than what is currently specced.
>> -- Brian
> I'll see if we can do something for WebKit based browsers, because today  
> it
> literally is hardcoded to 250ms for all ports.
> http://trac.webkit.org/browser/trunk/WebCore/html/HTMLMediaElement.cpp#L1254
> Maybe we'll end up firing events based on frame updates for video, and
> something arbitrary for audio (as it is today).
> Brian, since Firefox is doing what you proposed -- can you think of any
> other issues with its current implementation?  What about for audio  
> files?
> Thanks,
> Andrew

We've considered firing it for each frame, but there is one problem. If  
people expect that it fires once per frame they will probably write  
scripts which do frame-based animations by moving things n pixels per  
frame or similar. Some animations are just easier to do this way, so  
there's no reason to think that people won't do it. This will break  
horribly if a browser is ever forced to drop a frame, which is going to  
happen on slower machines. In balance this may or may not be a risk worth  

Philip Jägenstedt
Core Developer
Opera Software

More information about the whatwg mailing list