Actually I "help" with syrup making. I don't do any of the hard work, just help with keeping the fire stoke up and splitting some wood, filling bottles, etc.
Many people still use the buckets method and you'll often see them out on snowshoes emptying their buckets. Of course, you're right- the big commercial operations have the big tubing that takes the sap into the big collection bin. Then it's pumped into the sugar shack up into the overhead collection bin. Then gravity fed down to the boiler. It's a lot of fun and very interesting. I think it's most interesting how the sugar content and the taste varies from year to year, depending on the weather. Some years they get less, too, if it warms up to fast. We are only "helpers" with the operation, so I usually make trades for syrup. Like, we harvest our own wild rice, and I trade that for syrup. Or of course, I bring wine and beer in exchange for some syrup.