Originally Posted by udtsealeod
Elements: Main Floor
Dedicated Theater Room (24' x 14' x 9')
Great Room (Kitchen-Dinning-Living)
Bedroom #3 & 4
While a qualified A/V person will walk you through your questions, which generally do include budget, you look like you have some understanding of your rooms, so let's go with this list that you have of rooms.
Within each room, what is it you would like to control. These details are the things that matter to you, the little gadgets and gizmos that deliver exactly what you are after.
I like to start with the simple rooms. Generally a dedicated area of listening, that is unique, is called a 'zone'. Sometimes people have mutiple rooms as a single 'zone', but it is much cleaner in my experience to have every room as it's own zone if budget allows for this. So, treat your rooms individually, and start with the simplest rooms.
ie: Front Porch - Would like audio in this area - it will have a covered porch so a couple of in-ceiling speakers would be nice out there while sitting or doing work in the front yard. A keypad to control audio out there should be right inside the doorway.
Sun Room - Audio zone - keypad by the door
Mud Room - No special requirements, no audio, no video, ....
Master Bedroom, Bedroom #2, #3, and #4 - All rooms will have a wall mounted flat panel TV in them and in-wall or ceiling speakers as appropriate. Each room should use an RF remote control tied into the control system for reliability. No local sources are necessary, but they should have access to whole-home shared video and audio gear.
More complex rooms follow...
Great room area - surround sound in the family room with a large flat panel display. An additional pair of speakers in the kitchen shoudl mirror the family room speakers and be easily accessible by the family room RF remote to mirror the family room when desired. This room should have a local equipment rack that allows for gaming, Blu-ray Disc playback, and an auxilliary HDMI input with analog audio available.
Theater... Start list of what you want here.
Outside... lots of speakers? Just a few? This is all dependent on your home itself.
Blinds control? Yes? No? A few? A lot?
HVAC control? Any desire at all for this?
Lighting control? Yes? No? A few? A lot?
Lighting design assistance?
Ethernet/Networking should be setup in the head-end with everything else, and you should pick all the locations which you want a hard-wired ethernet connection available. I typically recommend all bedrooms, any sub-rack locations with local A/V gear, and anywhere someone may sit around for a while with a laptop. ie - great room next to the couch. Obviously any home office space as well should have one or two depending on your office setup.
The reality of all of this is that this is the custom portion, and you really don't need to be to clear on the specifics, but you have to put together a list of what it is you are hoping to achieve. I'm not familiar with the specific threads which may help you ask the right questions, but that is more about what the custom installers should do with you when you meet with them. They should ask you questions about what it is you want to achieve. They should consult with you and give you ideas and provide a proposal which delivers on those ideas, backed by reliable equipment that ensures headache free usage.
You definitely do want to consider a budget on things... A 12+ zone audio setup with multiple surround zones, projection, audio/video matrixing, racks properly wired, etc. could easily exceed $50,000. Which could be $30,000 over what you are hoping to spend. Or, it could be in line with your budget. A good A/V installer will not work for the lowest price - they will work to give you every single thing that you have asked for while spending every penny of your budget, but not going over (by much). They back into the number you give them, and typically go a bit over, but if you plan accordingly, then you will also give them a number several thousand less than you actually want to spend.
Yes, most places put down numbers that can be slightly negotiated. Perhaps 5% to 15% less than the first offer depending on the installer and scope of the work.
Good places will come out and meet with you free of charge.