CollageVideo.com: The Ultimate Source for Fitness Videos
Jul 25, 2002
When I first began to get interested in fitness, it seemed that the fitness magazines I was reading mentioned a company called Collage Video on every other page. After seeing about a million references to it, I finally decided to check it out.
What is Collage Video?
Collage Video is a company that focuses on selling fitness videos (and related equipment such as dumbbells, aerobic steps, toning bands, and workout audio tapes). What’s unique about Collage Video, started in 1987, is that it is run by people who use fitness videos themselves and base their decisions about what to stock, as well as the information they provide about each video, on having members of their company actually try out the videos. Collage Video argues that while mainstream sources for exercise videos (Amazon.com, or wherever else you buy VCR tapes and DVDs) stock items based on the star power of the featured instructors, they choose based on quality (for example, pursuing the tapes of the most qualified and experienced instructors rather than the most famous ones).
CollageVideo.com as a Research Tool
The first thing I noticed about CollageVideo.com, and what keeps me coming back time and again, is the wealth of truly useful information available regarding each video they sell. Since I’m new to the fitness world, I’m unsure about what to expect in any given video, and I don’t want to waste money on a video that’s an inappropriate level of difficulty, a style I won’t like, or that requires equipment I don’t have. CollageVideo.com makes it extraordinarily easy to research fitness videos and make wise decisions about them.
The site is plainly designed but quite functional. On the main page, you’ll see tabs across the top linking you to different aspects of the site (information about the company, ordering functions, your cart, and several other categories I’ll explain more below). Several new videos are featured in the center of the page. There are also several search functions available. You can search by item number if you have the print catalog and simply want to place an order online. You can search by type of exercise (e.g. step aerobics, pilates, yoga) or by the featured instructor (Gay Gasper, Leslie Sansone, Kathy Smith, or whoever you happen to like). You can use a link that brings you to a video listing according to fitness goals/types (videos best for weight loss, best for toning, for special needs such as working out during pregnancy, etc.). Or, you can choose to see a list of the videos available in DVD format, a list of the newest products, or a list of videos available in PAL format, a video format used in several countries outside the U.S.
Already impressed with the search functionality of the site, I began to search for some videos I’d been interested in. And once I did, I was further amazed at how much information CollageVideo.com provides about each product. Using a combination of graphic symbols, abbreviations, and full text, you will get the following information on each video: the workout category it best fits under (aerobics, toning, stretching, etc.), fitness level (beginning, intermediate, or advanced), parts of the body emphasized (abs, total body, upper body, etc.), workout length, a paragraph description of the video, and a 60-second video clip to help you get a sense of what the video is like. For most videos, you will also find a profile of the instructor, a rating of the level of difficulty of the choreography in the tape, a rating of the impact level (high impact, low impact, or mixed), and several customer reviews of the video. The “technical” of these ratings are provided by certified fitness instructors, while other aspects of the description (how motivating the tape is, etc.) are provided by regular exercisers like you and me.
To help you gather further information, CollageVideo.com also tells you whether the major women’s fitness magazines (Fitness, Shape, Self, etc.) have rated that video, and what they said about it. And if that’s not enough, you can submit questions to Collage Video staff experts, or to other site visitors, in the discussion forums, and even read success stories from people who have met their fitness goals using workout videos.
Buying from CollageVideo.com
For most of the history of Collage Video, it has been a print catalog and phone ordering company. It went online in 1997 (although you can still order the print catalog and do things the traditional way as well). The site’s “shopping cart” technology does not seem as sophisticated as that of the bigger shopping sites. For example, it stores the items in your cart in the system for “at least 24 hours,” which is a rather strange note, and you are expected to record a 7-digit letter/number combination to allow you to “find” that cart when you return again later. (Not as smooth an interface as you’d find somewhere like Amazon...) Adding things to your cart and entering shipping and payment information, however, works in standard fashion.
CollageVideo.com ships using UPS and the U.S. Postal Service, so regular delivery takes 1-5 days from the ship date. The site tells you as you order when your order will ship, and the company prides itself on keeping things in stock in the warehouse so that things can ship quickly. Shipping costs $4.99 for a one-item order, $6.99 for two items, $7.99 for three items, but only $5.99 for an order of 4 or more items (so this is a site where you can benefit by ordering things in a group). You can also pay hefty additional fees to get faster delivery (overnight or second-day). You will have to pay additional shipping charges when ordering heavy equipment like dumbbells.
To put it simply, I am obsessed with CollageVideo.com. I love to search or browse for new, interesting videos, and the site provides all the information I could want besides the ability to see the whole video before buying! The site is easy to navigate and offers several different ways to search. Everything loads quickly—even the video clips worked well on my 56K. I love the customer reviews—they all come from people, like the people who run Collage Video, that enjoy talking about workout videos, so they’re really useful sources in helping me make decisions about which videos will be right for me. Further, the video profiles provide information that is really crucial to me but that no other source provides. For example, you can often find workout videos rated beginner, intermediate, or advanced, but this refers to the fitness level at which the tape is aimed. At Collage, you get that information, but you also get other important information like whether the tape includes high impact or low impact aerobics (important for those of us with concerns about our knees) and a rating regarding the complexity of the choreography in the tape (important for those of us with two left feet in addition to our problematic knees). And nothing beats getting to see a sample, albeit brief, of what the tape will look like. And to top it off, I order a print copy of their catalog (which arrived very quickly—I believe it took less than a week) and enjoy paging through that to get new ideas as well.
And yet, I’ve never actually bought anything from CollageVideo.com. Why not? Even though I love them, I’m not at a point right now where I am willing to spend much extra money just to support a company I really like. So, I always do my research at Collage, but so far, I’ve found all the videos I wanted on sale elsewhere (actually, all at Amazon.com) for less, and with cheaper shipping. I would certainly not hesitate to order from CollageVideo.com, however, if I wanted to purchase one of the many tapes they stock that the more mainstream sellers do not.
Are there any downsides to CollageVideo.com? Besides the slightly more expensive prices, there really aren’t many. The video quality is a bit blurry on the video samples, but they are still perfectly fine viewing, and the lower quality means they load quickly on any internet connection. I wish the clips were a bit longer so that they could provide a better sense of what the video is like; also, the clips always include a moment of both the instructor’s introduction to the video and her conclusion to it, and I’d rather see more of the workout. But besides these minor complaints, I have nothing but praise for CollageVideo.com. It’s a great concept and an excellent resource to learn about what’s out there in the world of fitness.
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