Next, ignore the beams, and focus only on the water track. Despite looking like it's climbing up, it's actually totally flat (i.e. you could make it from one sheet of wood). But tilted slightly so water flows from the start to the end.
Additionally the entire structure is not actually sitting on the garage floor, but rather is high up in the air, and the camera angle obscures this.
Hidden under the structure is a pump and an outlet at the true start of the track.
He pours water into the catch basin at the end of the track, and that same moment someone else starts the pump. If you watch closely you can see how it looks like the water he pours is being "swallowed", and does not actually flow down the track.
The water from the pump flows down the track, and out the spigot over the wheel and into the bucket.
Next you place beams carefully cut at angles to make them look like they are holding the track - but actually they are open on top.
But this is a pretty amazing piece of work.
The apparatus is not connected at the red line in this image. The part to the left (the wheel) is on the ground and farther away, the part to the right (the start of the track) is in the air and closer. They just happen to line up due to forced perspective.
The water just seeps down into a hidden reservoir in the left part, and is pumped up at the appropriate time from another reservoir in the right part.
Edit: see below, it looks like the discontinuity is at a different point.
It looks like, given the reflection from the water, that section of the track can't be more than an inch above the floor. If thats true then wouldn't the break have to be somewhere after that point?
If I'm missing some huge detail can someone explain it to me?
EDIT: I made a diff in GIMP of the shadow. It looks like both the top and bottom left facing ledges are connected. Notice the hard edges between the adjacent pillars.
The texture of the upper parts of the wood contraption feels unrealistic; there is almost no grain. The contraption itself is too bright compared to the ambient level of light; the white buckets are darker. There are 2 main sources of light: one on the right casting a shadow of the structure on the ground toward the left, and one light on the left that should cast a shadow on the ground toward the right... but it is missing (contrary to shadows on parts of the structure itself)!
This is obviously CGI. You would be surprised what a person with a few days of work can accomplish with off-the-shelf CGI software.
The poster's background suggests this. He writes "ImD-student" in his profile which may refer to the Interactive Media Division at the USC's School of Cinematic Arts. He also subscribed to the "indymogul" youtube channel which is an online video network and community dedicated to DIY filmmaking.
For giveaways thought, in addition to the strange shadowing and textures the parent mentions, there's the human factor. To me the acting seems just a bit off.
Kudos to the guy who made this though; I imagine just modeling that structure (and its shadows and reflections) in CGI was a fun nut to crack!
I think if you look closely you can see the barest edge of a bucket behind the central part of the structure, where they'd drain the actual initial liquid. (You can see that the fluid seems to arrest before that transition in the video, as well.)
Note that the water doesn't appear to flow in front of the wooden knob at the ledge it's supposedly falling off.
EDIT: Looking again at the HD version it seems I'm mistaken. ars' comment appears to have it correct, though.
Better hi-res pic here: http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2009/08/james-dysons-uphill...
To be fair - this guy should be a target of your huge respect, not Dyson who merely financed the design work.
HN comments: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2137152
I thought I would just extend the poster's thought experiment, not imply that magnets were indeed used.
Maybe the structure is actually fairly flat, only a few inches off the floor at the highest point, but laid out, with shadows painted on the floor to make it look like it is vertical.