Here are some specific questions I could use help with:
1) What attributes are supported by mental ray for the particleSamplerInfo these days?
2) Are fluid render times better? The fluid on particles thread is still around but the updates seem few and far in between. It looked good, but the rendertimes were so rough. Multicores don't seem to help sim or rendering much.
3) Have the shadowing issues with fluids on particles been addressed? I think Duncan in that thread suggested rendering a second particle pass with a pCloud shader to capture the particle to particle cast shadow for compositing. That would add to an already long render time on our modest farm.
4) What are people's experiences with the latest version of Binary Alchemy in maya 2k8? Seems like the shader is fast and has some impressive features: http://www.binaryalchemy.de/index_dev.htm
5) I'm not sure I can get the licenses I need for our farm with BA, so what other shaders are out there to render volumes in mental ray? Are there free community shaders? I'm dreaming of ctrl_volumes.... Ah, but they've done enough already! :)
6) And how difficult would it be to develop such a shader compared to normal mental ray shader dev time? I've been programing as a hobby for years, I do work in Maya with mel, python and twice my own simple plug-ins. No shader dev experience though.
7) Finally, does anyone have a particleCloud setup they'd like to share? I think if you drive enough attributes with the psamplerinfo node it might not be so bad. I'm not sure I have the time or experience to create such a shader though, so I'd welcome any contributions gladly.