A majority of the footage in The Perilous Fight comes from the National Archives in Washington ,D.C. Producers culled through piles of catalogue cards in Seattle and relied on the work of Polly Pettit, a researcher in Washington, D.C., to report on the condition and subject matter of film within the Archives. Adrian Wood, one of the world's most prominent film archivists, led the research. The film came from different archives around the world, including Russia, England, Germany and Australia. His experience with past TWI television color documentaries provided the basis for The Perilous Fight to find even more color film. Most of the film in The Perilous Fight is film that the public has never seen.
Film also came from libraries, museums, private film dealers and families. The most outstanding film came from within the U.S., such as film of the Fifth General Hospital taken by Colonel Jay Sullivan of Seattle, Washington. Colonel Sullivan read an article in a local paper describing the production's search for color film and contacted the producers of The Perilous Fight. His film of the hospitals built after D-Day enabled producers to discuss the subject of African-American engineers in the Army. To make the series, producers first viewed hours of camera original film and then decided how the story would be written. In some instances, researchers and producers corresponded directly with the people who shot the film and at times, with the people in the film. It is this element, of being so close to the subject and to the history, that makes this series unique.
From an interview with Adrian Wood, film archivist, regarding finding the film:
"In my work with documentary films I started to come across small collections of color film within much larger black-and-white collections. Every time that I saw a roll of color film, it was interesting to me because it presented a different view of events that I was familiar with as black and white. These experiences of finding fragments of color film were few and far between, but they continued. I became aware that Americans probably had the largest amount of color exposure film around, compared to anyone else.
I knew there were small amounts in the U.K. I worked on a project that took me to Germany and found that there was material shot by Germans in both Germany and countries they occupied. In the late 1980s, I traveled to the Soviet Union, and discovered that the Soviets had developed a color system in the late 1930's.
Suddenly with that information it gave me the idea that there was a possibility of bringing a story together that didn't tell the entire story of World War II, but could present an overview of Word War II using nothing but color film. And there was always, for me, with color material, an immediacy about it. Quite often when you look at black-and-white film, you can look at horrendous events and say well, that's black and white, it was a long, long time ago. Once you see those same events in color, then they appear much more recent in time. You can't dismiss them as something in the past, because the kids you see go off to war, or the victims of war, the refugees, they look like people today. Clothing changes, cars change, design styles change. But the people look as young and old as the people around us we see on a daily basis."