The company has also acquired Australian visual effects outfit Photon.

Beijing-based film studio Stellar Megamedia Group is to co-produce a $37m (Euro 30m) 3D animation with French giant Pathe.  The co-production will mark the company’s first China-France co-production and the first of its commitment to expand its film production spectrum into animation and CGI-driven films, Stellar Megamedia chairman Qin Hong told Screen Daily.

Qin declined to talk about the title and name of director but said the story of the animated film will be an international story.  The production is planned to take place in September, and set for 2012 release, Qin said.

To be prepared for the company’s future CGI-driven productions, Stellar Megamedia’s Hong Kong-based holding company SMI Corporation has acquired Australian Gold Coast-based visual effects and CGI company Photon and will rename the company SMI Photon.  SMI now owns 80% of Photon’s stakes, according to SMI CEO Margaret Xaio, and will set up a visual effects and post-production company SMI Beijing, while the Gold Coast company will be named SMI Australia.  Photon’s portfolio includes Baz Luhrmann’s Nicole Kidman-starring Australia and Superman Returns.

SMI Beijing will be situated in SMI’s Beijing-based production base Feiteng Studio, which now has set up 4 sound stages for 3D works including ones for motion capture and motion control. 

According to Dale Duguid, founder of Photon, SMI Photon Beijing will not only be a visual effects and post-production company but also a school offering education and training by the Australian professionals to the Chinese crew and trainees.  “Students will not learn just the theory or graduate with knowledge of already outdated technology.  We are offering real production experiences to our students,” Duguid said. 

Duguid added that there will be 1000 professionals offering education for 1000 students and in 6 months’ time SMI Photon Beijing will start taking students.

Stellar Megamedia is also the main investor of major Chinese-language productions in 2010 including Chen Kaige’s The Orphan of Zhao and Gu Changwei’s Zhang Ziyi starring Life is a Miracle.  Apart from film and TV production, Stellar Megamedia also co-owns a cinema circuit China Film Stellar Theaters with state-owned China Film Group, which owns 126 cinemas and 533 screens.