I’ll start by saying I’ve not tried to render anything using Subsurface Scattering. And to be honest I’m not sure exactly how it works, practically speaking. I do know that to render semi-opaque/semi-translucent objects (e.g. skin, onions, marble, aso), it’s perhaps the way to go. Also, because it’s a volumetric process it’s more difficult to achieve and computing intensive (but, again, I’m unsure of the details). From some of the forum threads I’ve seen – and mostly avoided – it’s been tricky goings for people trying to create or simulate the effect. I know one long, ongoing thread over on CGTalk that I’ll want to read over when I have a couple days of free time.
That said, via a post on Death Fall comes word of a new algorithm developed to achieve the basic affect in real time. Very very cool. Check it out here (includes an abstract, some images like the one above, and a DivX video). Remember my earlier post on Spore? the one with the link to Amazon Soul‘s near-photorealistic character models? Ok, now tack onto those models a skin that looks like skin (I believe Rene’ Morel uses the standard Maya renderer for Amazon Soul). Like I said, very very cool.