GPU computing made it. Physically-based rendering are the main paradigm in CG rendering right now, and it just became cooler as the last main Blender version provide one, for free. Cycle is an (almost) physically-based rendering engine. Great, “almost” because many feature are just cheated for fast production workflow but the result is still just amazing considering that it’s just given for free.
Payed solution like the Octane engine, LuxRender, VRay, Mental Ray or Renderman are more accurate. But if you are not in a hollywood-style AAA production perspective the Blender Fondation is the solution of choice.
Back in the year 2009 Skylink went to the Yokohama Siggraph Nvidia workshop about the CUDA & OpenCL technologies introducing GPU Computing. Now in 2012 the open-source community allow professional CG pipeline using those amazing physically-based light-bouncing algorithm and so we implemented them in a small professional context for video content.
For the Harajuku Takeshita Street video arch we developed a small video ride in a toon-shaded-like miniature world of the street. it was fun as the DOF definitely works well and so this small paper-world are looking like coming from a toy world plan-model remake of the place. GPU is fast, tuning parameters are on-the-go so the Cycle engine is certainly the solution of choice for product showcase.