I re-modeled the fountain itself since I wasn't quite satisfied with how it looked (which included making it an actual object with volume rather than a paper-thin shell), calculated a full five seconds of fluid simulation, then rendered the entire thing at 25 frames per second, 300 cycles per frame. I'm not sure how long the entire process took because I did it over night, only that it took less than ten hours.
I should explain that the reason I can get such realistically rendered water is because of Blender's new (as of version 2.61 from last December) internal rendering engine called Cycles. Unlike the original internal render mechanism, Cycles has no set “end” point. Instead, it simply renders a predetermined number of cycles, each cycle improving the picture. Each cycle does not, however, improve it by the same amount, leading to a point of diminishing returns after which additional cycles cost more in time than they are worth in aesthetic improvement. What that point is, of course, is entirely subjective.
|A larger version of frame 43 from the video, 300 cycles. Took 13 minutes 50 seconds to render.|
|Similar to above, but with 500 cycles. Not as dramatic a difference as I'd hoped, but you can see that the water in the basin and the shadow looks less noisy than the 300 cycles version. This one took 23 and a half minutes to render.|