School of Arts & Architecture

Department of Design Media Arts


DESMA 160-1

Summer 2018

Tuesday, Thursday 1PM-5:45PM  

Broad Art Center room 4230

Instructor: Stalgia Grigg

Office Hours: Thursdays 6:30 - 7:30pm in 5th floor shootroom (by appointment)


This course approaches virtual reality as platform for art creation. Students engage directly with medium by making original experiences for room-scale VR using Unity engine. Simultaneous exploration of technical challenges and conceptual implications of this medium. How does one make artwork within an isolated medium? Where are the boundaries of virtual immersion? What are the politics in the promise of machine-augmented empathy? Study accomplished through combination of tutorials, lectures, and discussions. Prior experience with coding and/or 3D modeling highly encouraged.

We will mostly be using Unity3D (version 2017.4) for the production and assembly of the final VR experiences. For the creation of assets you are free to use any combination of 2D and 3D software that you are comfortable with. Additionally you are encouraged to experiment with 360 video editing software, audio editing tools, photogrammetry and VR specific tools like Tiltbrush or Medium.

Highly Recommended:

Previous experience with 3D Modeling (Maya/C4D) / DESMA156


Previous experience with Unity 3D / DESMA157.

Commitment to Diversity & Safer Spaces:
We understand the classroom as a space for practicing freedom; where one may challenge psychic, social, and cultural borders and create meaningful artistic expressions. To do so we must acknowledge and embrace the different identities and backgrounds we inhabit. This means that we will use preferred pronouns, respect self-identifications, and be mindful of special needs. Disagreement is encouraged and supported, however our differences affect our conceptualization and experience of reality, and it is extremely important to remember that certain gender, race, sex, and class identities are more privileged while others are undermined and marginalized. Consequently, this makes some people feel more protected or vulnerable during debates and discussions. A collaborative effort between the students, TA, and instructor is needed to create a supportive learning environment. While everyone should feel free to experiment creatively and conceptually, if a class member points out that something you have said or shared with the group is offensive, avoid being defensive; instead approach the discussion as a valuable opportunity for us to grow and learn from one another. Alternatively if you feel that something said in discussion or included in a piece of work is harmful, you are encouraged to speak with the instructor or TA.
*Statement adopted from voidLab at: 

Center for Accessible Education:
Students needing academic accommodations based on a disability should contact the Center for Accessible Education (CAE) at (310) 825-1501 or in person at Murphy Hall A255. When possible, students should contact the CAE within the first two weeks of the term as reasonable notice is needed to coordinate accommodations.
For more information visit

Mental Health & Wellness:
As a student you may experience a range of issues that can cause barriers to learning, such as strained relationships, increased anxiety, alcohol/drug problems, depression, difficulty concentrating and/or lack of motivation. These mental health concerns or stressful events may lead to diminished academic performance or reduce a student's ability to participate in daily activities. UCLA offers services to assist you with addressing these and other concerns you may be experiencing. If you or someone you know are suffering from any of the aforementioned conditions, consider utilizing the confidential mental health services available on campus. I encourage you to reach out to the Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) for support. For more information visit: 
Phone: (310) 825-0768. An after-hours clinician is available 24/7.


Project 1 (Due Class 4) - Solo project


Make a quick VR room-scale prototype that responds to one of six conceptual prompts that will be given on the first day of class. These prompts are a way of examining aspects of VR that are unique to the medium.

 ***A VR prototype doesn't have to work perfectly or look polished. It is a sketch that can communicate a an idea in the headset.

Deliverables: A short written description of the work and how it responds to the prompt + a live VR demo of your prototype.

Project 2 (Project due Week 10 Thursday) - Group Project (1-3 people)

Plan, Design, Prototype and Complete a full-scale Virtual Reality Experience. Through 8 classes of lectures, tutorials, class work, discussions and 1-on-1 meetings we will work through making a fully fleshed-out immersive experience for the VR headset. Each team will be asked to make a proposal. The class will then view the proposals and offer feedback as a group. Using that as the focal point of the project, each team will develop a complete VR experience. I understand that the length of this course forces us to have a very rapid studio production schedule. You will be expected to work extensively outside of class, and how well you scope your project will factor into the final grading.

Project 2 Requirements:

-Use of room scale VR capabilities

-A fully designed 3D environment

-Considered use of the headset and controllers

-Some interactive or time-based element(s)

-Some use of the embodied presence of the audience

-Spatialized sound design

Deliverables: 1) A complete VR standalone executable that can be experienced in the headset. 2) A 3min video documentation of the piece. At least 5 screenshots and 1 paragraph of text description. Documentation due Week 11 Thursday.


Project 1: 30%

Final: 50%

        Proposal: 10%

        Timeline & Structure Outline: 10%

        Final Submission: 30%

Class Participation: 20 %

All assignments must be submitted before the beginning of class time on the day they are due unless a midnight deadline is indicated. Late projects and assignments will be penalized by one letter grade per day they are late, and will not be accepted if more than one week late.

As this class is conceived as a studio for artistic experimentation with Virtual Reality, I consider your participation to be critical to both passing and enjoying the class. You are expected to actively be part of the ongoing dialogue, discourse and critique.

More than two absences without the professor’s prior permission will lower the participant’s final grade by one unit (e.g. an A will become an B). With each additional unexcused absence, the grade will drop an additional unit. If there is an emergency and you must miss class, email me before class. Absences will not be excused after the fact except in extreme circumstances. Illness requires a doctor’s note. If you are more than 10 minutes late, you will be marked tardy. Three tardies results in one unexcused absence.

Weekly Schedule

class 1:

Class Overview and Introduction

Go over assignments deadlines and grading

Headset Demo

Lecture: History of VR

Unity Setup + Intro

Introduction to First Project Prompts and Expectations


class 2:

Lecture: Anatomy of a 3D Scene

Tutorial: VR Studio Setup and Workflow

Tutorial: Rapid Unity Crash Course

1on1 discussion of plan for Project 1


class 3:

Lecture: Simulation vs Story

Tutorial: Interaction in VR

Project 1 Studio Time


class 4:


Group Critique of Project 1

Introduction Final Project

Lecture: Planning and Structuring Large Projects

class 5:

TUESDAY: Final Project Proposals DUE 

 Work-in-class on developing timeline and structure for final projects

class 6:

TUESDAY: Final Project Timeline and Structure DUE

Lecture: Embodiment

Tutorial: State Machine/Animator Controller

Meetings about Final Project Proposals

Studio time


class 7:

Lecture: The Politics of Alternate Realities

Tutorial: Cameras and Image FX

Studio time

class 8:

Lecture: Materiality

Tutorial: Based on Project Needs



class 9:

1on1 meetings

Tutorial: Based on Project Needs

Studio time


class 10:

1on1 meetings

Studio time

class 11:

1on1 meetings

Studio time

class 12:

DUE Working Build of Final Project

Critique final projects

DUE Friday September 14 at 11:59PM (23:59):

All documentation and final class materials