> but what renders is a still photoshop image
This isn't clear to me. You're getting a PSD (Photoshop document)? Or are you just trying to say that you get a GIF file but it's not animated/animating?
How exactly are you creating the output? What exact menu commands and such are you choosing and clicking?
Todd, it's rendering out as a giff, but I'm not sure how to get it to animate or to loop.
It imported into photoshop as a still, but I now see that it does animate when imported into AE. But it doesn't loop.
It doesn't animate at all when dragged into email - the way a quicktime movie will. so I'm not quite understanding how the client can
use it as a perpetually looping animation for an e card.
In the composition, I click command M.
In the render output module, I set the format to Animated Giff.
In format options, I click enable dithering and loop. Click the render button and the giff is rendered.
After Effects is, frankly, terrible at making animated gifs directly. Here's what I do. Export an Animation Codec Codec quicktime then import that file into Photoshop using the File>Import>Video Frames to Layers option. I can then make the adjustments needed to the timing, size, compression, and save for web and devices.
Another option is to save the PSD file and then bring it into Fireworks for conversion to an animated gif. Fireworks is Adobe's best tool for creating animated gifs.
Here's a tutorial from Russell Brown on how to do it.
By the way, if you don't see the Import option please select view all menu items at the bottom of the list.