The most common way of lifting balls in a contraption is with a kind of one-way elevator. But I've already built one of those. This guy has an interesting idea. It's a little hard to see in the video, but he's got the marble going both ways through the pistons. It lifts one "story" going from left to right, then another story from right to left.
That gave me an idea. First of all, why not any number of stories? And second of all, why three pistons? Probably the answer to both is: maximum height for the amount of Lego he had.
I'm thinking you could put just one piston between two towers and with a certain amount of mechanical futzing pump the marbles up to any height.
*pause for 24 hours of trying to get some kind of Lego CAD software working on any computer in my house or office to illustrate this and failing miserably*
OK, here's the basic idea: The piston in the middle has ramps inside. The marble starts off at the bottom of one of the side towers. It rolls into the piston down one of the ramps and it stopped against the wall of the other tower. The piston moves up and there's a little nook in the other tower that the marble falls into. The piston lowers. Now there's another internal ramp, this time pointed the other direction, aligned with the nook, so the marble re-enters the piston and is stopped against the wall of the first tower. Repeat.
It's a little tricky, though. The nook is the problem. The marble needs to roll out of a ramp into the nook but then roll out of the nook into a ramp. The three piston video solved this by having good timing and long ramps. I don't have long ramps or the patience to get the timing right. What I'm trying right now is a kind of teeter-totter arrangement in the nook that tips up to receive the marble and then tips down to release it.
Oh cripes. I just re-read this entry and even I was too bored by the last two paragraphs to pay attention to them. I'll just have to make it work and post a video. Or somehow get LDraw working.