Different Types of Bones?

I am in charge of animating a music video for someone. I have the character modeled, and now I need to rig it. The only problem is, I don’t have the best layout for doing it. Currently I have your standard bones for controlling the character, and shapekeys for the face (eyes, mouth, eyebrows, etc.). I know there is a better way, as I’ve seen like with eyes that you can have something where you move an empty type thing that the character looks at, and it moves the pupils of the eyes. Also I have seen instead of standard bones, these square rings that are around the character that control joints of the characters.

Some ideas that I have thought of while writing this that may or may not work are making empties or objects that can’t be rendered and parenting/constraining them to the vertices. I’m not sure if that would work though. Can anyone help me out and tell me what they are and or tell me how to use them? I’ll try to add a YouTube link that provides what I need (A YouTube video that is showing someone with the same set-up that I need).

UPDATE: Added video that shows the rigs. The video starts off at about the time the person starts importing the characters, and he has “rings” around his arms and legs. I have seen in a later video by him that they were used to move the legs and arms.
UPDATE 2:Added video of the person using the “rigns” to animate
Video 1:http://youtu.be/vzNs-DJiFtQ?t=22s
Video 2:http://youtu.be/9NDLuEbTzOs?t=9m18s

I suggest you work your way through http://vimeo.com/30073532 It shows the basics, and advanced stuff, like creating a heel-to-toe foot roll rig. Another good tutorial is http://vimeo.com/18880739 which explains into detail how to rig a face, using bone-driven shape keys and a target object for the eyes.

Those are called custom bone shapes. They are made by creating separate meshes for the shapes, then telling the bones to display as that object. It’s covered toward the end of this tutorial: http://cgcookie.com/blender/2011/03/22/creating-an-advanced-face-rig-part-two/