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Could new Mischief software for artists turn into a Hollywood success story?

Posted by Scott Kirsner  October 15, 2013 09:06 AM

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MischiefScreenShotByCarlySanker.png

When Disney's animators were feeling constrained by their digital tools, Sarah Frisken got the call. A former boss of hers was running Disney's research-and-development division, and he told Frisken that the animators felt they couldn't do their best work using existing software. "It was taking them twice as long to use the digital tools, and they wanted them to be more responsive," Frisken says.

She spent four years developing what became the Sketch Drawing Engine for Disney. The guiding philosophy, Frisken says, "Was that it is so easy to pick up a piece of paper and sketch out an idea. We wanted to do that same thing with software, where you could just open it and start to draw."

mischief2.jpgThis past summer, Frisken, a former Tufts computer graphics prof, released a new version of the software, called Mischief. She's targeting professional artists and designers who tend to use a tablet and stylus for input — though you can use a mouse, too. The software sells for $65, and it's available for Macs and PCs. (Frisken says she's thinking about an iPad version, too.)

The software got a nice bump when it was released in June, when Adobe blogger John Nack mentioned it. That led to about 10,000 downloads of the trial version in just one month, Frisken tells me. But the company, 61 Solutions, still consists of just Frisken and a handful of contractors. She has boot-strapped the Cambridge startup so far, but may try to raise outside funding soon.

It'll be interesting to see how this movie ends...

(The Mischief screenshot up top is by Carly Sanker. The goldfish image is by Jo Spargo, from the Made With Mischief Tumblr.)

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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