This is a reconstruction of a picture from a plate in The RenderMan Companion (Upstill, 1990), where a "family" of elephants are standing on a plinth, illuminated by two spotlights.
I eventually learned via the Wikipedia Bézier_surface page that the elephant model is called "Gumbo", and was originally created by Ed Catmull. Equipped with a name, the Bezier patch representation of the model was eventually located in RenderMan RIB format. Using the model, the scene was created in an attempt to replicate the setup, lighting, and textures close to how it appears in the original picture.
The near Gumbo uses a wood volumetric texture, the middle Gumbo uses a dented surface displacement combined with metal-like Phong material parameters, the far Gumbo uses a marble volumetric texture, and the plinth uses a granite volumetric texture. The texture implementations are based on the shader examples provided in the same book, and are all based on processing Perlin noise.
Amazing! Beautiful textures and lighting. For the middle elephant, how did you do the surface displacement? Are you manipulating the normal vector, or truly changing the geometry of the surface? Either way, well done. It's very convincing.
I displaced the geometry. I diced the patches for the dented surface to a sub-pixel vertex and normal mesh, then displaced each vertex along its reverse normal. Each triangle in the resulting mesh has a single surface normal recovered from the displaced vertices. I considered building a normal map/texture and discarding the vertex grid, but felt like doing some more experiments with geometry displacements where it'll be much more apparent than this image
Thanks. I have a new-found respect for those that light, color and texture animation (and movies) after doing that. I never thought it'd take so much tweaking lights to get shadows "so", fiddling with colors etc to get the scene together