A pump-probe technique based on the detection of optical phase changes at the surface is described. A common-path interferometer in which the reference and probe pulses interrogate the surface immediately (∼500 ps) before and after the pump pulse is demonstrated. The primary application of this system is film thickness measurement in integrated circuit processing. Pulses 60 to 100 fs wide, from a Ti-sapphire laser at 800 nm, are brought to a 5 μm focus on the surface, resulting in picosecond acoustic pulses in the film. Echoes from film interfaces, upon arrival at the surface, lead to a phase change in the probe beam which is measured. Results from tungsten, aluminum, and copper film structures are presented. © 2000 American Institute of Physics.