George Clooney’s cross-country journey to send workers to the unemployment line in “Up in the Air” couldn’t be more different from Jeremy Renner’s quest to defuse bombs in “The Hurt Locker,” but the editors of both these films use clever, thoughtful rhythms to develop the lead characters and the challenges they face.

“Up in the Air” begins with quick cuts and lots of light as Ryan Bingham (Clooney) moves from city to city, collecting only air miles and hotel stay points on his way.

“Things were clean and crisp and quick at the beginning because the character Ryan is just trying to move away from certain feelings then. That changes over the course of the movie,” says the pic’s editor, Dana E. Glauberman. “At the end, you see gloomy colors and longer cuts because certain emotions — that feeling of wanting to make a connection — are much more at the front than in the beginning of the film.”

To get across the idea that Ryan is becoming more aware of what he is missing in his life — and what he hopes to find — Glauberman (who has known director Jason Reitman since he was 16) lingered more in conversations and on details like the bare walls in Ryan’s apartment.

Chris Innis, who edited “The Hurt Locker” with Bob Murawski, also structured certain rhythms into the film she cut. But Innis and Murawski wanted to use them in the same way certain horror films do: to keep the audience in a state of expectation and tension.

“This movie is kind of like a horror film where you’re unable to see the killer,” says Innis. “You know a bomb could go off at any minute, but you never know just when it’s going to happen, so the ideas of (Alfred) Hitchcock — about making your audience anxious — were influential for us when we did the editing.”

Innis also set up scenes so that you never knew when Renner’s character might erupt in anger because of the stress he faced in his job.

“We wanted it to work on two levels,” says Innis. “This character is as explosive in many ways as the bombs he’s dealing with there.”