Unnormalized armature weights wouldn’t help you do any of that.
For something simpler like your first video, you can use a warp modifier or a dynamic mesh deform. Here it is with a mesh deform:
I skipped the third sphere because it just wasn’t necessary.
Here’s the file, although you’ll need to hit the “bind” button the mesh deform modifier on frame 1 (file is too big with the bind data):
dmd1.blend (215.9 KB)
If I’m getting the second video right, there are a lot of ways to do that; easiest would be pre-armature, vertex group limited, surface deforms from the target meshes (they look like they’re just pre-armature deformations.)
Last Maya user that wanted Maya-style clusters was satisfied with a warp modifier, which can act like a bone that follows your mesh. Didn’t see that demonstrated in your video, but if you’re a Maya user, you should learn the warp modifier.
Maya rigging is very different than Blender. Maya abstracts away a lot of details that you have to trudge through in Blender, and to my knowledge, not everything that Maya does is possible in Blender.