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Working in tight collaboration with main VFX vendor Image Engine Design, the talented crew at San Rafael, CA based Whiskytree used highly detailed 3D models when rendering the Elysium habitat environments in Arnold. Solid Angle engineers Mike Farnsworth, Thiago Ize and Angel Jimenez spent time on-site at Whiskytree profiling, debugging and optimizing memory usage and file I/O in the geometry instancing engine until Arnold was able to render the more than 5 Trillion (!) visible triangles. Read more in fxguide's article, Elysium: a practical, miniature and digital fx odyssey and watch Whiskytree's Trillions of Surfaces tech demo:

Below is an ambient occlusion rendering of one of the buildings on Elysium:

Here is the same building as a beauty render as seen in the film: