Update: I got another tweet from Allegorithmic here: https://twitter.com/Allegorithmic/status/933015971681525760
Here's another art idea I had for Halloween which I didn't quite complete by the 31st. Here I experimented with Renderman's instancing and my main goal was to push heavily on point count. On my relatively low-powered machine I ended up settling for three million instances, which came out to about thirty-two billion total polygons.
The meshes were created in Houdini and the textures in Substance Designer. For the pumpkin, I leveraged the setup I created for my Jack-o'-lantern project, though the shape here is arguably much simpler.
For the close-up shot I ran a very basic Bullet RBD sim using proxy geometry of the hi-res meshes since I wasn't happy with the automatic convex hulls generated by Bullet. I then swapped the proxies out for hi-resolution meshes at render-time using Houdini's "fast point instancing."
For the wide shot with millions of instances I utilized Houdini's terrain system to create an interesting landscape for scattering. I ended up using the "Valley" preset right off the Terrain shelf without modification and just ran the erosion simulation in order to emphasize certain valleys and contours of the terrain. Once I was happy with the shape of the terrain I used a simple point scatter to distribute enough points on the surface to sufficiently cover the entire landscape. To help with coverage I made two additional copies of the landscape and shifted them down slightly in order to add a sense of depth instead of having the points all sit on the same plane.
If I were to spend more time on this I'd re-visit the lookdev of the candycorn -- I think the yellow and white is over-cranked and the subsurface scattering isn't behaving as expected in the wide shots. However, I'm overall quite happy with the results, especially with how much geometry I was able to push through Renderman RIS in a reasonable amount of time.